Movie review: Meeting the parents goes wrong in ‘Why Him?’
–There’s a moment that every father dreads from the moment his little girl is born – the invitation to meet the boyfriend. There’s so many potential pitfalls and ways that things can go wrong.
Sometimes the boyfriend turns out to be a good guy, and it turns out to be a great match. Other times… well that’s the fodder of Hollywood comedies like “Why Him?” The film, starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco, chronicled just such a meeting of father and boyfriend, with the added touch of being a Christmas film.
And, as one might expect, things didn’t go as planned.
In the film, Ned Fleming (Cranston) is celebrating his 55th birthday. He’s a small business owner and enjoys a great marriage with his wife, Barb (Megan Mullally). But things aren’t quite as rosy with his business as he’s letting on, and he’s feeling a lot of pressure to get things turned around.
His birthday isn’t quite complete, though, as daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is away at Stanford finishing her degree. When she calls to wish her father happy birthday via video chat, the family is accidentally introduced to her boyfriend, Laird (Franco), as he arrives early for their date.
Soon, Stephanie is inviting her parents to come to California to meet Laird over the Christmas holiday. When they arrive, he’s not exactly what they expected. He’s an uber wealthy tech millionaire with a few personality eccentricities. He’s also been involved with Stephanie longer than she let on, and he has designs on asking her to marry him.
This adds an extra layer of holiday stress to Ned, and leads to some rocky times at their Christmas gathering.
You pretty much know what to expect from a movie like “Why Him?” There’s going to be awkward moments, fish-out-of-water storylines and a series of misadventures. You don’t go to this kind of movie because of the potential story twists. You go because you’re hoping for some interesting characters and solid laughs.
And for the most part, “Why Him?” delivers on that account. Director Jon Hamburg (“I Love You, Man,” “Along Came Polly”) co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Helfer based on a story that Jonah Hill collaborated to create. He has a strong feel for the material and makes the most of his incredibly talented cast.
Cranston is great at playing the serious and put upon head of household, and Franco makes an ideal foil. Franco’s character is crazy, but he has the right charm to make it believable and three-dimensional.
The film also gets some great supporting performances. Mullally appears to be having a ball as Barb, and really gets a chance to shine in a few scenes. Meanwhile Keegan-Michael Key brings the funny as Gustav, Laird’s estate manager and quasi life-coach. He has some of the best comedic timing and uses it well in this film.
“Why Him?” isn’t deep or complicated, and it’s pretty easy to guess where it’s going to end up. It’s not a conventional holiday film, either, but it’s consistently funny and doesn’t wear out its welcome. It’s the ideal kind of mass appeal film released during this time of year.
“Why Him?” has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong language and sexual material throughout. Enter with caution.
Three stars out of four.
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