Monster-in-Law

Barbarella is back. that's right, Jane Fonda, whose nudie romp in that 1968 sci-fi sex saga is still a rouser on DVD, has returned to movies for the first time in fifteen years. She doesn't hide the lines on her strong, patrician face. She doesn't need to — class and beauty will always win out. Fonda, 67, plays a mother. And what a mother. Viola Fields is a talk-show of Barbara Walters wattage. She is about to be replaced by a bimbo. Her sassy assistant (Wanda Sykes) remembers Viola passing out when The View won an Emmy. On her last TV stint, Viola strangles a Britney Spears clone who proudly says she's never read a newspaper.

Viola is having a meltdown. And this is when her only son, Kevin (Michael Vartan), announces that he — a doctor — is about to marry Charlotte (Jennifer Lopez), a Latina temp. The film, directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), from a script by Anya Kochoff, is hardly classic farce. Fonda, like Robert De Niro — her co-star in her previous film, 1990's Stanley and Iris — is on the low-comic road to a Meet the Fockers pot of gold. Snobs be damned. It's a hoot to watch Fonda cut loose and mix it up with J. Lo, even when the laughs turn mean-spirited. Broadway legend Elaine Stritch is killer funny as Viola's own monster-in-law. Fonda, be it as Hanoi Jane or workout queen, keeps springing surprises. Knockabout comic is just the latest incarnation in Fonda's life so far. Let her rip.

From The Archives Issue 375: August 5, 1982
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