So the saying goes: marry the guy, marry the family. Equally, cast the divas, carry the baggage... The scarily perverse stunt casting of stately screen legend Jane Fonda and Lady Lopez is mostly effective for the skill that Legally Blonde director Robert Luketic applies to the conflict set-up. After an on-air meltdown, Viola is replaced by a bimbo upstart and checks into a hospital for breakdown recovery. While she's gone, her only son Kevin spots Charlie first walking dogs on the beach, then serving snacks at a party in his honour. He's instantly smitten and proposes in front of his mum on the day of her rehab check-out.
Lopez nails just the right kooky-comic tone as the cheery temp who seems to be the only person in LA unaware of how she's lucked out, snaring a rich doctor with a richer, famous mother. While the Fonda-Lopez square-up is a key lure, there's solid support from Vartan, who's charming enough to pull off the unenviable straight-man role he honed with Jennifer Garner on Alias. Still, his presence will distract celebrity-watchers who can't help wondering at what point his then-girlfriend Garner began dating Lopez's then-fiancé Ben Affleck. US stand-up comic Wanda Sykes shines as Viola's smart-mouthed PA Ruby, although she's slightly overused by Luketic whenever he senses the audience might tire of the constant one-upwomanship of the leads.
But, whatever instructions Lopez might have given her agent about billing, there's only one star here. From her outrageous entrance in OTT dress and silly hat, to the bedroom scene where she beats up Charlie on the pretence of having a nightmare, Fonda is classy and utterly magnetic.
It's been 15 years since she last graced the screen - - with Robert De Niro in Stanley & Iris - - but we haven't been reminded of her natural comic talent for so much longer. In fact, she's probably never been seen in such a self-deprecating role where vanity has gone completely out the window. Not taking herself so seriously agrees not only with Fonda, but also the film.
A bright and breezy vehicle for the Fonda-Lopez catfight. It's also nice to see the old, hellish mother-in-law gags coming from spunky ladies.