Why Him? Review
By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
Now, let me preface this intro with that fact that I am not a parent. But I feel that every parent looks forward to the day that their child grows up, falls in love, finds that special person to marry, and goes off to live happily ever after. At least that’s what goes through my head. But what happens when a little wrinkle is thrown in? What happens when the parents don’t like the person their child is dating? Or what happens should the child decide they want to marry this person? How does a parent react? Such is the foundation of the latest film from John Hamburg, Why Him?
Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) and his wife, Barb (Megan Mullally), have two lovely children: youngest son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) and their eldest daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). Ned is the CEO of a printing company in the Midwest and he needs a break, so they decide to visit their daughter at school at Stanford. It’s there they find out that Stephanie has a boyfriend in Laird (James Franco), a Silicon Valley self-made billionaire who made his fortunes off video games you can download on your phone. Ned is a little perturbed Stephanie never mentioned Laird to him, considering how close they are, but gives Laird a chance. Unfortunately, Laird doesn’t impress Ned with his colorful use of the F word, enhanced levels of sexuality, and influence over his family. So when Laird decides he wants to propose to Stephanie, Ned goes into panic mode. A battle of wills and tactics will ensue with the fate of Stephanie hanging in the balance. Will Ned be able to show Stephanie the bad side of Laird or will Laird win everyone over, and take Stephanie as his wife? The battle of CEO vs. CEO is on!
Why Him? is a story similar to what we’ve seen done in other films before, such as Meet the Parents, but what sets it apart is that it is definitely not rated PG-13. This is rated R through and through, and appropriately so. When you’re writing a story we’ve seen before, you have to up the stakes in some way, and this is done by making it less suitable for young audiences. The jokes are crude, yet hilarious, the language is full of Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite F word, you’ll hear terms you’ve never heard before (like double dicking), and older women in the crowd may want to go home and work on their twerking skills for their husbands. Now, if none of that sounds fun to you, should we even be friends or even want to know one another? Seriously, the scenes are hilarious, and there are some random elements that just work (like throwing a live chicken at a would be attacker…it’s funnier than the sentence makes it sound, trust me!). There are also plenty of nice, family-oriented moments and character evolution.
Speaking of the characters, this film is really driven by Franco and Cranston. Franco takes on the character of Laird, who never had a father figure, or anyone to really raise him, so there is unfamiliarity when dealing with Stephanie’s family members. He wants to make this great impression, yet tends to try too hard. While Cranston’s character sees him in one light, the audience is able to see another dimension of the character, the side that lies under the exterior, the side that is caring and means well. Franco is able to deliver a well-rounded character for this type of film, giving him a few layers of depth so that audience can attach to him and want to root for him. Cranston, on the other hand, is that father that I’m sure many of you female readers can relate to: the one who is close with their daughter and wants the best for her, yet is going to be critical of a guy in her life, especially one like Laird. Cranston brings back the feeling of one of his more memorable father figure roles from his TV days…no, not Walter White of Breaking Bad fame, because Laird would have been killed if it was Walter White. I am of course talking about his role as Hal in Malcom in the Middle from oh so long ago. It’s a different role for Cranston, after his recent performances as Walter White and Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo, but he makes it work and delivers the comedy once again in a few scenes. Deutch is more of a catalyst for everything that happens between Ned and Laird, playing the straight role of the good, collegiate daughter who wants to do well in the world and wants her family and boyfriend to like one another. Special shout out goes to Keegan-Michael Key in his role as Gustav, a bodyguard, man servant, chef, etc., etc. He steals his scenes a couple times and provides more than his fair share of comedy.
Why Him? may not be for everyone, especially if you’re not a fan of laughing out loud, sexual innuendos, having a good time, or James Franco. For everyone else, you’ll be more than entertained. While some of the elements may be a little melodramatic or placed there to add a soft touch and remind us that we do have an underlying story about family and relationships, we just go with the flow, smile, and keep on laughing. The story isn’t necessarily fresh, but it does have its moments, and the ending may not go exactly as we thought it would, but it still does kind of, but in a way that’s unexpected…does that make sense? No, ok, good, no spoiler there then. You’ll laugh, you’ll laugh some more, you may tinkle a little, you’ll come out with some new vocabulary, and you’ll be able to answer the million dollar question, Why Him?