Friday, December 23, 2016

‘Why Him?’ Why This Movie?

"Why Him?" movie review
Laird (James Franco, left) meets his girlfriend Stephanie’s (Zoey Deutch) family: Ned (Bryan Cranston), Barb (Megan Mullally) and Scotty (Griffin Gluck). (Photo Credit: Scott Garfield / 20th Century Fox)
MOVIE REVIEW
Remember how you were charmed by James Franco’s performance in Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful? Or how impressed you were by his acting in 11.22.63? How about Bryan Cranston? Didn’t you love him as the dad in the Malcom in the Middle TV series? Putting the two together in a movie must have sounded great on paper. And actually, I have no complaints about any of the actors in Why Him? It’s everything else.

This Christmas movie, if you can call it that, could be the love child of Father of the Bride and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and just might win for “Most Offensive Movie of the Year.” Keep your fingers crossed.

Some movies are best to walk into blindly. This is not one of them and if I had done my research ahead of time, I wouldn’t have darkened the door to this slop. From the very first scene, I knew I was in trouble. Now, if you like your movies full of “f-bombs,” references to all forms of sex and humor centered on bodily fluids, then this movie is for you.


"Why Him?" movie review
Bryan Cranston as Ned, Megan Mullally as Barb,
and James Franco as Laird.
Director and co-writer John Hamburg takes most of the blame and should have known better as he has written similar and better material including Ben Stiller’s Meet the Parents. Producers Shawn Levy, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and co-writer Ian Helfer take a large chunk of it too.

Why Him? is about the Fleming family coming to California to visit their daughter in Stanford University. After a short and bizarre scene at the beginning of the film where the family meet their daughter’s boyfriend for the first time via Skype, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) picks up her family the airport and everything appears to be normal. Father Ned (Cranston) and mother Barb (Megan Mullally) are thrilled to see their “little girl” and innocent brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) is happy to go along for the ride. However, instead of taking the family to the hotel that they have reservations for, she drives them to her boyfriend’s home. Her boyfriend is none other than Laird Mayhew, a Silicon Valley billionaire. His mansion of a home sits in the middle of forest with lots of critters running around.

Laird’s home is impressive and frightening at the same time. Laird likes wild life and has paintings of different mating animals spread out throughout the place, his employees work on the premises, but he doesn’t know if they live there as well or not, his chef creates expensive, yet unidentifiable, food, his bathrooms are paper-free and he has monitoring system like Apple’s Siri, but is actually the voice of Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory. Laird’s butler and confidant Gustav is played by Keegan-Michael Key as is by far the best thing about this movie. In fact, if they created a movie just called Gustav, I would be first in line.

In a lot of ways Why Him? follows a paint-by-the-numbers formula. Protective father meets potential son-in-law. Understanding mother tries to get protective father to give the younger man a chance. Younger impressionable brother finds the socially lacking boyfriend really cool. Love struck daughter gets mad at protective father and boyfriend for each of their behavior toward each other. Sound familiar? But even beyond this, the movie has other big issues.

While Stephanie and Laird appear to really like each other, it’s not very convincing that her character would actually fall for a guy like him, nor would she not tell her parents anything about him ahead of time. (Yes, I know that's the exact same premise of Father of the Bride, but in that case, two actually look like they belong together.) The film also tries to show Laird’s “good” side, which is that he is honest to a fault. This is admirable, but really, not enough to melt a protective dad’s heart. The man keeps real dead animals on display in their own urine for crying out loud.

Just like how the surprise group cameo at the end of the movie (which was actually fun) is missing a few people, this film feels just as ill-placed. Merry Christmas everyone.