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Fonda Returns to Film as 'Monster-in-Law'

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Have you ever had a fight like this?

(Soundbite of "Monster-in-Law")

Ms. JENNIFER LOPEZ (Actress): (As Charlotte "Charlie" Cantilini) Just so you know, the crying bits are getting old.

Ms. JANE FONDA (Actress): (As Viola Fields) Just so you know, Kevin likes his girls thin.

Ms. LOPEZ: (As Cantilini) Oh! Well, I could always get liposuction. I've been meaning to ask: Is it painful?

Ms. FONDA: (As Fields) Oh!

Ms. LOPEZ: (As Cantilini) Now you listen to me. This is over!

Ms. FONDA: (As Fields) (Laughs) This isn't over--not even close, girlie.

Ms. LOPEZ: (As Cantilini) Well, bring it on, Grandma.

WERTHEIMER: That's Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda having it out on screen in the new movie "Monster-in-Law." Ms. Lopez is the bride-to-be. Ms. Fonda, we are told, is the mother-in-law-slash-monster. Sean Levy is the film critic for The Oregonian newspaper in Portland.

Welcome.

Mr. SEAN LEVY (Film Critic, The Oregonian): Hi. Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: So did Jane Fonda wait 15 years and get the right project?

Mr. LEVY: You know, I'm not sure about that. She was connected at one point to "Spanglish," the James Brooks film that came out before Christmas. She was connected to a Cameron Crowe film that'll be out in the autumn. Those roles went to other actresses for various reasons. And instead she turned up in this very formulaic sort of comedy, where she shines quite brightly, but the film is kind of formulaic and silly--and take Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes, her sidekick, out and you've got nothing.

WERTHEIMER: Is there a plot beyond what we heard in that clip? I mean--or we have just heard the whole thing?

Mr. LEVY: Yeah, the plot would be the nothing. It's a really silly movie. There's a love story between Jennifer Lopez and Michael Varton that you wouldn't watch for 60 seconds if they were selling soap. There's not really a lot of depth to the character that Jane Fonda plays, for that matter. She's meant to be a sort of TV talking head of, you know, great fame a la Diane Sawyer, but we really don't see any of that personality. We just know that she's famous. We just have these scenes where these two women are sort of having a "War of the Roses" with each other, but not quite at that level of bitterness or, for that matter, humor.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now there are huge personalities in this movie, obviously. Ms. Fonda and Ms. Lopez's a big star. But I--you mentioned Wanda Sykes. She still manages to make an impression.

Mr. LEVY: Wanda has a wonderful role, and I would have loved to have seen a film about Jane and Wanda together. Wanda is the longtime sidekick and assistant to Jane's character. And there are a couple of moments where the director sort of lets Wanda's character slide into a caricature that made me think a little uncomfortably of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson in "The Jack Benny Show," and even more hurtful racial stereotypes. But, that said, Wanda was very funny and gets most laughs per line of any actor in the film.

WERTHEIMER: Sean Levy is The Oregonian newspaper's film critic. He joined us from Portland. Sean, thank you so much.

Mr. LEVY: Not at all. Thanks.

WERTHEIMER: It's 22 minutes before the hour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.