Movie Review: Why Him?

Why Him?

When I decided to watch Why Him? I expected to at most not hate it but I was pleasantly surprised by what this movie had to offer. Sure it might cling to well established plot formulas and overall it seemed like James Franco was just playing a sensationalised and wish fulfilled version of himself the movie made up for its weak points by having a lot of heart.

The strength of this movie had a lot more to do with casting that it did straight up narrative because the cast were well put together and worked well. Bryan Cranston (who played Ned Fleming) and James Franco (who played Laird Mayhew) especially were great together and had a very real chemistry. Alongside them filling out the rest of the family is Megan Mullally (as Barb Fleming) who I only ever remember seeing as the boozed up Karen on Will and Grace, but here she does well as a wife who loves her husband but is slightly put upon by his behaviour. Next up is Griffin Gluck (as Scotty Fleming) the nerdy little brother who reminds me how impressionable you can be at fifteen because he soaked up the personality of everyone around him, starting as a puppet for the behaviour his parents expect then slowly morphing into a mini Laird by the movies end. Rounding off the main cast is the female lead Zoey Deutch (playing Stephanie Fleming) who was just as smart and beautiful as everyone kept telling her she was and even managed to make the men in her life feel bad for treating her like an object the entire movie. I don’t remember seeing her in anything else though but I think I’ll be looking out for her in the future.

Anyway I’ve always appreciated vulgar humour, it appeals to me I guess because like many people my age I suffer from arrested development. And this film brandishes it like a kid with a new toy. A lot of it I thought was still good fun but at times It did feel over the top. I mean having a fifteen year old kid tea-bagged by a dead moose crosses the line from off colour humour to going too far. This film danced the line a lot. I think the fact I kept jumping to the extreme and then back again and still coming out of it as decently watchable says something about the film.

Leading on from that if you don’t like swearing then this probably isn’t the movie for you. I imagine if you cut out all the curse words the script would more resemble a pamphlet than a feature length movie. That’s not a criticism exactly because it didn’t bother me but if that bothers you maybe watch something else.

The basic premise is that the perfect daughter Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch) invites her family to spend Christmas in California with her and her boyfriend Laird Mayhew (James Franco). As her dad (Bryan Cranston) mom (Megan Mullally) and brother (Griffin Gluck) soon realise he’s not just your average college guy because for a start he never even graduated high school and secondly because he’s a tech genius and billionaire and also happens to be ludicrously unaware of social conventions…that’s what a life time of computers will do to you folks. In the first 20 minutes of the film he’s came on to her mom and revealed he tattooed their family Christmas card on his back. Obviously a fairly average…maybe even uptight family from Grand Rapids doesn’t jive well with a guy who never quite grew up and has the money to do whatever he wants. I think what surprised me though was that despite being a savage representation of hipsters and the silicon valley life James Franco’s character felt so sweet. Sure he swore more than Debra on Dexter and he didn’t think things through but he really loved Stephanie and was unflinching honest and just wanted to make everyone happy. In fact towards the end of the film Cranston delivers a line “you don’t have a gear for dishonesty do you” when he finally realises that for all his rough edges Laird loves his daughter and he is truly genuine. Cranston also delivers a great performance as a man who is fighting a losing battle with progress and is being crushed by new business. Occasionally the uptight dad role gets retired for a moment and he’ll let it rip whether it’s jamming to Kiss or stealing a Christmas tree.

The rest of the family were good as well. While the movie touched on a trope about a mismatched husband and wife it’s at least clear that they love each other and are fundamentally comparable which is something comedy doesn’t seem to think is possible. And the kid brother is funny because as I mentioned before he’s mirror to those he admires which leads to some funny moments and by the end he fused the best parts of Laird and his father to become somewhat his own man.

Honestly though despite the absurd moments like Keegan-Michael Key’s character the estate manager and Lairds best friend leaping out from nowhere to attack his employer to ensure he can successfully fight off real threats or the aforementioned moose incident this movie felt sweet. All parties learn from one another and adapt to go forward.

Plus this movie had just the right amount of Kiss. In fact Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley come in at the end to sing ‘I was made for lovin’ you which is special to Barb and Ned because their romantic lives are linked to the band…their first date and all that. So it was nice of Laird to make it special to him and Stephanie as well even if in the back of her head she knows her parents had sex to that song.

What this movie lacked by and large though was Christmas which considering it was set in and released at Christmas is weird. I suppose it was just a framing device and in that regard it did quite well.

So yeah I’d say watch this movie because it’s funny and even a little touching at times and it gives you the expected laughs. So because of all that I’m going to give this movie a 7/10 and recommend you give it a watch.


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