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A wedding cake with figurines of the bride and groom. A finger pushes the bride into the cake.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Luketic
Produced by
Written byAnya Kochoff
Music by
CinematographyRussell Carpenter
Edited by
  • Scott Hill
  • Kevin Tent
Distributed by
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • May 5, 2005 (2005-05-05) (Atlanta)
  • May 13, 2005 (2005-05-13) (United States)
  • May 26, 2005 (2005-05-26) (Germany)
Running time
102 minutes
Budget$43 million[2]
Box office$154.7 million[2]

Monster-in-Law is a 2005 romantic comedy film directed by Robert Luketic, written by Anya Kochoff and starring Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Vartan and Wanda Sykes. It marked a return to cinema for Fonda, being her first film since Stanley & Iris in 1990. The film was negatively received by critics who praised Fonda but panned the screenplay. Monster-in-Law was a box office success, grossing $154 million on a $43 million budget.


Charlie Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) is a temp/dog walker/yoga instructor and aspiring fashion designer from Venice Beach, California, who meets doctor Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). At first, she thinks he's gay because of a lie his vindictive ex-girlfriend Fiona (Monet Mazur) told her. But then Kevin asks her out and she believes that she has finally found the right man.

Things start to sour when Kevin introduces Charlie to his mother, Viola (Jane Fonda), a former newscaster turned talk show host, who has recently been replaced by a younger woman, causing her to have a meltdown and attack a guest on-air. Loathing Charlie immediately, Viola becomes more distraught when Kevin proposes to her; fearing she'll lose her son the same way she lost her career.

She sets out to ruin Kevin and Charlie's relationship, enlisting the help of her loyal assistant Ruby (Wanda Sykes). Viola fakes an anxiety attack and moves in with Charlie while Kevin is away for a medical conference, in an attempt to drive her crazy with her antics.

Charlie soon catches onto Viola's plan and fights back by destroying her bedroom and tampering with her anti-psychotic medication (which Viola had replaced with Vitamin C tablets). Charlie eventually confronts Viola, forcing her to move out.

Finding no way to stop the wedding, Viola tricks Charlie into eating nuts during the rehearsal dinner, causing an extreme allergic reaction which results in Charlie’s face swelling up. However, the swelling subsides by morning.

On the day of the wedding, Viola turns up wearing a white dress instead of the peach-coloured one Charlie had specially made for her. This leads to a violent standoff between the two, with Viola refusing to accept Charlie and stating she'll never be good enough for Kevin.

Suddenly, Viola's own dreadful mother-in-law, Kevin's grandmother Gertrude (Elaine Stritch), appears and they have an indignant argument with Gertrude holding Viola responsible for the “terminal disappointment”, from which Gertrude claims her son, Kevin’s father, died many years ago. Gertrude's resentment of Viola bears a strong resemblance to Viola's feelings of animosity towards Charlie, who decides to back down as she feels the same thing will happen to them in 30 years.

Charlie leaves to tell Kevin that the wedding is off to save his relationship with his mother. But before that can happen, Ruby approaches Viola and tells her that her efforts against Charlie to make Kevin happy are unwarranted.

Viola ultimately realizes that she wants Charlie to stay and tells her that she will leave the two of them alone if that means her son is happy. Charlie, however, tells Viola that she wants her to be a part of their lives, with some boundaries and ground rules.

Charlie and Kevin get married and, when Charlie throws her wedding bouquet, Viola (now wearing the peach-coloured dress) catches it. As Charlie and Kevin drive away to their honeymoon, the film ends with Viola and Ruby walking out of the celebration to go out drinking.


Reception [edit]

As of June 2020, the film holds an 18% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 170 reviews with an average rating of 4.28/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "While Jane Fonda steals the movie in her return to the screen, a tired script and flimsy performances make this borderline comedy fall flat."[3] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 31 out of 100, based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[4] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[5]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one out of possible four stars, saying: "You do not keep Jane Fonda offscreen for 15 years, only to bring her back as a specimen of rabid Momism. You write a role for her. It makes sense. It fits her. You like her in it. It gives her a relationship with Jennifer Lopez that could plausibly exist in our time and space. It gives her a son who has not wandered over after the "E.R." auditions. And it doesn't supply a supporting character who undercuts every scene she's in by being more on-topic than any of the leads."[6] Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal also panned the movie, and used his review to deride the state of big-budget film-making, writing: "Films like this ... are emblematic of Hollywood's relentless dumbing-down and defining-down of big-screen attractions. There's an audience for such stuff, but little enthusiasm or loyalty. Adult moviegoers are being ignored almost completely during all but the last two or three months of each year, while even the kids who march off to the multiplexes each weekend know they're getting moldy servings of same-old, rather than entertainments that feed their appetite for surprise and delight."[7] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the few critics who gave the film a positive review, writing: "It's a crude, obvious comedy, which occasionally clunks, but it's often very funny, as well as being a really shrewd bit of popular entertainment. Its appeal resides in a lot of things, not the least of which is a sophisticated awareness of what an audience brings to it."[8]

The film ran 849 sneak preview screenings on Mother's Day at 4pm, the Sunday before release. New Line's president of domestic distribution David Tuckerman publicly stated his doubts about this strategy but the film achieved 90% attendance and he stated "the marketing department hit a home run."[9] The film became a box-office success debuting at number #1 at the box office during its first weekend and earning $24 million. By the end of its run, the movie earned $83 million at the domestic box office and a worldwide total of $154.7 million, against an estimated production budget of $43 million.[2]

Lopez earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress for her performance in the film, but lost to Jenny McCarthy for Dirty Love.

Home media [edit]

The two-disc set DVD was released on August 30, 2005 with these features: Audio Commentary, 7 Deleted Scenes, a Blooper Reel, and 4 Featurettes:

  1. "Welcome Back Jane"
  2. "A Jennifer of All Trades"
  3. "Vartan the Man"
  4. "Trendsetters" (2 Parts)

TV series[edit]

On October 13, 2014, it was reported that the Fox Broadcasting Company is developing a TV show based on the film with Amy B. Harris as creator.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Monster-in-Law (2005)" (select "Details" tab). American Film Institute. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Monster-in-Law (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  3. ^ "Monster-in-Law (2005)". Retrieved 15 June 2020 – via
  4. ^ "Monster-in-Law Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  5. ^ "Cinemascore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Retrieved 2019-09-05.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (2005-05-12). "Monster-in-Law". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  7. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (2005-05-13). "Monster-in-Law". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  8. ^ LaSalle, Mick. "Honey, meet my mother. Now please try not to kill each other". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-10-27.
  9. ^ Brandon Gray (May 16, 2005). "'Monster-in-Law' Claws to the Top". Box Office Mojo.
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie. "'Monster-In-Law' Comedy Series Based On Movie In Works At Fox". Retrieved 3 December 2015.

External links[edit]