In Why Him?, Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) is a father of two: his eldest daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) who moved away for college and his teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck).
his 55th birthday party, he receives a surprise Skype call from
Steph. And while his supposedly innocent daughter is giving a heartfelt
message, the whole family (and his party guests) get a naked surprise when
Stephanie's boyfriend, Laird (James Franco), arrives in the background, drops
his pants, and accidentally bares his ass for all to see. The thing is,
Stephanie never mentioned her boyfriend to the family. But since they already found
out about Laird, she invites them over to formally meet him and spend the
holidays with them.
As it turns out, Laird is a billionaire tech genius behind a popular video game franchise. This would have been well and good had he not also been notorious for having a no filter vocabulary, which of course doesn't sit well with Ned. The whole movie then sees the two go head-to-head as they compete for both Stephanie and Ned's family's affections.
It's Bryan Cranston and James Franco's chemistry that makes this movie work. It's technically a father-meets-son-in-law movie like Meet the Parents but feels more like a film about generation gaps, making most of the jokes play on this subject.
On one end we have Ned, who's a conservative, small-town dad. He runs a printing business which went smoothly for years but since the digital age arrived, things have not been going well. His ideal son-in-law would most likely be a man with a successful career and good manners. Sure, the film's main focus is on him dealing with his daughter's absurd boyfriend, but it also sees Ned trying to get a grasp of the world of millennials and advanced technology.
Then we have Laird. He's successful alright, but being a traditional gentleman is not one of his aspiring qualities. If James Franco's style of humor appeals to you, then you would agree that this role was meant for him. Who else could nail the foul-mouthed, anything-goes persona? His character is definitely the type of guy who would give any father a headache.
I like is that they didn't create Laird to be a typical douchebag. Sure, he tattooed
Stephanie's whole family onto his back, but he also has his mellow moments,
especially with his one-on-one talks with Ned. When it comes down to it, he's
really just a guy who wants Stephanie's family's approval.
Speaking of Stephanie, it seems like her character is only there to set up the jokes between her father and her boyfriend. After she introduces the two men to each other, she's cast to the sidelines while Bryan Cranston and James Franco take the spotlight. But Zoey Deutch made the most of her screen time; her character is intelligent, sweet and likable, and her scenes with Ned are heartwarming. I'm glad that the movie didn't reduce her to a gold-digging spoiled brat or any other conventional sexist trope like some films do.
As I mentioned before, Why Him?'s gags mostly draw from generation gaps. In one scene, Laird accidently uses the word "bukkake" as a metaphor and a clueless Ned asks the meaning of it. Laird, realizing his mistake, proceeds to tell Ned that bukake means "a feeling of being overwhelmed." As expected, Ned uses the word in a later scene in which he converses with Laird's friends.ÃÂ
The jokes get old after a while but they still put a smile on your face. Of course, some of the supporting cast like Megan Mullally (who plays Ned's wife) and Keegan-Michael Key (who is Laird's assistant) also contribute to the laughs with the limited screen time they have.
I won't give away too much. If you're looking to pass the time with a few laughs, Why Him? is a decent movie to watch. Although it's a movie about a family, I wouldn't recommend you watch it with yours. It's R-rated for a reason.