Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why Him? (Movie Review)

Why Him? Doesn't Break New Ground But Serves Up Some Entertaining Laughs

If Why Him? feels familiar to movies like Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, that might be because John Hamburg—the writer and director of Why Him?— also wrote and directed those films and a few others I enjoy (I Love You, Man and Along Came Polly) and essentially recycles the same plot from himself. Here goes the template: girl meets guy who doesn't meet the father's standards, the two awkwardly clash in drawn out gags and eventually grow to accept each other. 

The girl is Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and Laird (James Franco) is her filterless millionaire video game designer boyfriend. Stephanie's parents Barb (Megan Mullally) and Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) get a predictably bad first impression by seeing his bare ass during a Skype chat in a room full of all of his co-workers. They attempt to set up Ned's failing paper business (shocker) and say how old school he is compared to Laird's rich paperless millennial lifestyle but like I said earlier, these details barely matter to the paper-thin plot (no pun intended) so I'll just talk about the parts that made me laugh. 

Once Ned and Barb visit Laird's zoo/mansion–which is Silicon Valley's answer to MTV Cribs– over Christmas all hell breaks loose. This is where the movie differs from other in-law movies because where Meet the Parents had Ben Stiller as a bumbling nurse desperate for approval, Franco is unleashed as a young and shirtless mogul that is so energetic and unapologetic that his appeal is that he just can't help himself.  Franco plays the same eccentric Franco-eque character he's been playing his whole career but in a much more dynamic way than say in The Interview. Now that I think of it, Laird is all of Franco's stoned and stupid characters rolled into one tattooed puppy-like bozo. 

Cranston fell right back into his comedy roots as the uptight dad playing off of Franco and the two have great comedic chemistry. Franco's overbearing presence and Cranston's disdain are where most of the laughs came from me. Laird continues to prove why he's not fit to marry Ned's daughter, he's 10 years older, she drops out of school because of him and asks for his blessing and then unsuccessfully tries most of the movie to build a bond with him. Stephanie rarely has a say or role in the movie but says Laird reminds her of her dad, although other than minor references to him being a lifelong fan of the rock band KISS the audience rarely sees it. 

What saved the movie for me other than Cranston and Franco is the supporting cast. Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) plays Gustav, his personal assistant/life coach/self-defense teacher and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) is the mom, Barb, who is loosening up to Laird's free-spirited ways and they both show their comedy background by stealing their scenes. The scenes where Gustav attacks Laird at random times were my favorite, including one where Laird uses a chicken as a weapon. The young son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) also has some great scenes with Laird, especially one where the son tries to fit in by using cuss words and the best he can come up with is "double-dicking". Much of the dirty humor could probably be attributed to Jonah Hill having a writing credit on the script. But for every great slapstick gag there's one that misses like one involving moose piss and testicles and a very long scene where the dad Ned is trying to figure out how to clean himself after going to the bathroom in Laird's "paperless" mansion.

What ultimately holds the movie back is it's lazy plot, gross out gags and overlong running time. By the end of the film it's taken every angle to make you laugh and goes into cartoonish territory. Also from the trailers it looked like there would be more competition between Franco and Cranston and a deleted scene with a drone but the trailers pretty much tell you everything you need to know. By the time it gets to the third act, the movie goes soft, the plot and the last minute cameo can't even save it. I won't spoil who it is, but even they look bored to be there. If you're going to see it, I recommend renting it with friends and having a few beers and you'll have some good laughs, but other than that it's a pretty forgettable R-rated comedy. 

Overall, I can't lie and say the film wasn't funny because I laughed quite a lot during the setup and middle, but it's the third act and overlong (111 minutes) running time that can't close out what the great cast has brought to the table. 

My Rating:

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