At The Movies
Director: John Hamburg
Cast: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Keegan-Michael Key
‘Why Him?’ is a basic story that has been told and retold numerous times before and films like ‘Father of the Bride’ and ‘Meet the Parents’ immediately come to mind (albeit it with a lot more R-rated humour). It’s all about that awkward moment when a parent is introduced to their sons or daughters partner for the very first time. Most of us have been in that situation before in some capacity but ‘Why Him?’ takes the awkwardness levels up a few notches.
In this particular retelling Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) plays an old fashioned, hard working and a no-nonsense husband and father. He lives with his family in a small town in the US heartland and runs a printing press company that’s hit hard times due to the rise of online advertising. He has a loving wife Barb (Megan Mullally), his prodigy son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) and he shares a close bond with his daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) who’s away at college in California.
In complete contrast to Ned, Laird Mayhew (James Franco) is an unhinged and hyper-sexual thirty something multi-millionaire owner of a tech company. He makes impulsive and often misguided decisions (in order to impress, he get’s a large tattoo of the Fleming’s family Christmas card on his back) and is completely devoid of any filters when it comes to social norms. He’s not shy about speaking his mind with brutal honesty (he spends a few minutes crudely praising Barbs sexual attractiveness in front of Ned) and his constant cursing would make a sailor blush. Oh, and he just happens to be Stephanie’s boyfriend.
The film get’s going once Stephanie invites the Fleming’s to come to California to meet Laird over Christmas. As the two contradictory personalities are introduced it takes no time at all for Ned to disapprove of Laird and for comedy hi-jinks to ensue as the latter tries to win him over.
Bryan Cranston returns back to his comedy roots as the straight laced Ned. He gives a good performance as a disapproving and caring father who’s only concern is the well being of his daughter. His often subtle reactions to Laird’s over-the-top antics are hilarious and add some much needed balance to the in-your-face performance offered by Franco.
While James Franco’s acting career and role choices have been wide ranging (he’s played in everything from Oscar nominated dramas to straight to DVD bargain bin action thrillers) he does appear to be most comfortable in and best at these type of ‘low-brow’ physical comedies. He plays the role of Laird with relish and seems to enjoy acting out every single cringe inducing moment to the full.
Anyone who’s familiar with the works of Judd Apatow will be familiar with the brand of humour on display in this film. The comedy is in-your-face loud, raunchy and in some places gross. While there are a few really funny moments, most of them are derived from the Cranston and Franco interactions. Once the outrageous nature of Lairds character wore off after the first 20 minutes or so, like Ned I found myself being more annoyed rather then entertained by his antics. But if you enjoy a proper R-rated comedy then this film is for you.