DVD Review - Why Him?

Director and co-writer John Hamburg tried to do a reverse of the hit film Meet the Parents (2000). That movie had a guy who meets his girlfriend's father and the father turns out to be his worst fears. Here, the roles are reversed, and it's the father who meets his daughter's boyfriend and the boyfriend turns out to be his worst fears. Even though it went to some ridiculous places, Meet the Parents never felt as over-the-top as this. That 2000 film was tense and awkward, but it wasn't as dumb and goofy as this movie is for the majority of its running time.

James Franco stars as Laird Mayhew, a young billionaire who made his fortune in the tech industry. He's the epitome of dumb and goofy. He's described as being incredibly honest and having no filter or much of any boundaries. He does a lot of things on whims regardless of the consequences. He's basically a child in a man's body who is incredibly rich.

He's not a bad guy, but he tries to ingratiate hard, mostly by spending a lot of money to impress his girlfriend's family. A lot of it is creepy because it's too much, too fast. It seems as if he's trying to impose himself too quickly and to embarrassing degrees. Nevertheless, all of it feels rather innocuous. There's never any real tension.

The movie instead wastes a lot of time with a lot of lame jokes or bits that fall flat. Everything with Griffin Gluck (Private Practice and Red Band Society) who plays Laird's potential brother-in-law, Scotty Fleming, a 15-year-old who idolizes Laird, fell flat. Ironically, Gluck was in the American remake of Cuckoo, a BBC series that has a similar premise to this movie, though sadly no scene here involving Gluck is funny. There are ways that Scotty's relationship with Laird could have been intensified and used for comedic effect but the film doesn't go there.

Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) co-stars as Ned Fleming, the father to Laird's girlfriend. He celebrates his 55th birthday at the start of the movie. He's married to Barb, played by Megan Mullaly (Will & Grace) and has two children, his aforementioned, teenage son and his college-age daughter, Stephanie, played by Zoey Deutch (Ringer and Dirty Grandpa). He's the owner of a printing company that prints things on paper.

Ned and the family leave their home in Michigan and visit Stephanie and her boyfriend Laird in California. It's Christmas time. Ned is aghast at Laird's lifestyle and at Laird's friends who are staunchly digital and eschew the paper business. Ned tries to defend his printing company but he quickly fizzles out. This is essentially one scene and is never really brought up again as Ned basically concedes to Laird's friends who believe paper is a dinosaur industry. Instead of Laird's goofy behavior, the movie could have made more of this.

Hamburg and his co-writers could have made more of the case that, yes, more companies are going paperless and the digital revolution is in full gear, but Ned should have pushed back a little harder. Textbooks, greeting cards and manuals for appliances and electronics are all still printed for people. There is an argument to be made for Ned's company to exist and thrive. Obviously, there are good, counter-arguments, but the movie should have had a more push-and-pull throughout.

What the film dishes out is Ned and Barb clashing with a lot of millennials or Generation X people over terms and practices that are overtly silly. Instead of stumbling over food and eating differences or words for vulgar sexual acts, the movie should have been a tug-of-war between the digital and the analog. The tug could have used Scotty as the rope. Scotty's idolization with Laird should have clashed with his need to impress his father.

The movie admits that it has no central conflict otherwise. Like in Meet the Parents, the idea is that the boyfriend has to get the permission from the father to marry the daughter. It's an antiquated, patriarchal idea that Ned acknowledges at the end was pointless. Arguably, if the information is known from the beginning, then why go through the rigamarole?

Rated R for strong language and sexual material throughout.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.


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