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Lopez, Fonda Team Up in Romantic Comedy <i>Monster-in-Law</i>

Every newlywed has to cope with the in-laws; but few face the sort of challenges thrown at bride-to-be Jennifer Lopez by her screen fiance's mother, Hollywood veteran Jane Fonda in a new film comedy. Alan Silverman has a look at Monster-In-Law.

When handsome surgeon Kevin pops the question, no one could be more thrilled than would-be artist and temporary office worker Charly ... and no one could be more alarmed than Viola, Kevin's doting and extremely protective mother.

Viola, a recovering alcoholic burned-out TV journalist, will stop at nothing to break up the couple; scrappy Charly is just as determined to tie the knot with Kevin, no matter what.

Jennifer Lopez, who has made more than her share of off-screen headlines about relationships and near-marriages, says it's fun to act out every bride's nightmare as Charly.

"I love romantic comedies. I love watching them; if I have my choice, I'd rather watch romantic comedy at home than the great, new drama that's out," Lopez says. "I know it's silly. I'm a girl ... I'm very 'girly' that way. I like making them as well, but it's hard to find romantic comedies with some sort of premise that you know is going to be funny [and] that a lot of people can relate to. I just felt that this script, with the mother-in-law aspect - there's nothing about that people are not going to understand: the dynamic between a mother and a son or a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. It just lent itself to a lot of comedy and also something for a lot of people to relate to."

Monster-In-Law is Jane Fonda's first film in 15 years (since Stanley And Iris in 1990). The Oscar-winner says she found it easy to play the broad comedy of Viola.

"I'm a different person than I was when I quit the business 15 years ago. Back then it was agony. I was not creative; I was living in my head; I was unhappy [and] didn't want to do it anymore," Fonda admits. " I'm very different now and I thought 'I wonder how that would manifest? I wonder if I could have joy again acting?' Then this wonderful character came my way and I thought it would be a hoot to play her. I've never played anybody like Viola Fields and I wanted to have fun. Laughter comes easy to me now and you have to be light to play her and kind of like 'swing for the fences.' She's just outrageous and over the top; it was a lot of fun to do

"It really gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like when movies were different," Lopez says. "She worked in a different era, when it was more about plays and stories and Midnight Cowboys and all kinds of stuff like that kind of very actor-ish, all-about-the-work method group: what it must have been like when movies were just about that. We don't make as many movies like that; it's more about about big, commercial blockbusters now and people take less chances on the independent stuff. I kind of got a glimpse into what that was."

Director Robert Luketic burst onto the Hollywood scene with his first feature film, 2001's Legally Blonde; and the English-born filmmaker says tried to spotlight the comic strengths in both of his Monster-In-Law co-stars.

"Jane, Jennifer and I made a conscious decision to try and use many different types of comedy," he explains. " I think you can push it as far as you need to push it, providing you ground it in some emotional truth ... that you provide some rationale for the characters' behavior that comes from somewhere real. As long as you provide something grounded in reality, the sky is the limit."

Monster-In-Law also features Michael Vartan as the perfect groom, Kevin; and Wanda Sykes takes heaps of abuse as Viola's assistant.