WHY HIM? (USA/15A/111mins)
Directed by John Hamburg. Starring Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mulally, Griffin Gluck, Keegan Michael-Key
THE PLOT: Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) has a fabulous new boyfriend – internet millionaire and app developer Laird (James Franco). She has not told her parents Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mulally) yet, but they get a rude awakening when he sneaks up on her during a webcam chat for his idea of Netflix and chill. Ned, Barb and their teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) travel from the wintry chills of Michigan to sunny California to meet Laird and spend Christmas with him. However, Ned is not too impressed with the tattooed, foul-mouthed, over-the-top personality of Laird. Within minutes, Ned takes an instant disliking to him and his over-eager ‘real estate manager’ Gustav (Keegan Michael-Key), whom Laird likes to have occasional Clouseau-and-Cato fights with. As Laird slowly seduces his way into the family, Ned wonders – why him? THE VERDICT: It is no surprise to learn from the end credits of this film that Jonah Hill and Ben Stiller were involved with it. Hill co-wrote the script with Ian Helfer and director John Hamburg. Stiller gets a producing credit, so it is not much of a stretch to imagine this as a variation on Meet The Parents – but from the Robert De Niro perspective instead. The basic premise sets it up as a Ned v Laird death match, with Stephanie caught between them. Laird is very eager to impress the Fleming family, with his flashy, paperless designer house and, er, hi-tech toilet – which results in one laugh-out-loud scene. Though, the gag is overstretched and needs to be flushed away a bit sooner. Ned only sees trouble when it comes to Laird, but he is also overprotective and unable to process his daughter’s love for Laird.
The script is stuffed like a Christmas turkey with jokes and sight gags, many of which hit the bullseye and are very sharply written (e.g. the gags about the eccentric Gustav and Laird’s omnipresent A.I.). There are few duds here and there though, like a subplot involving one of Ned’s employees hacking into Laird’s computer which ends up in an awkward situation. The cast go full throttle with their characters, with Franco letting rip with his eager-to-please character and Cranston showing a lighter side after more serious roles recently. The constant bickering and rivalry between them is fun to watch.
However, it is hard to shake off the feeling that everyone here is trying a little too hard to please. The basic premise is enough to generate bellyfuls of laughs without the need to throw everything, including a famous rock band, into the mix. It becomes a little too busy and chaotic, barely pausing to let the audience take a breather before the next chuckle. If you look too closely, you can see the cracks in the script. However, there is still much to enjoy in ‘Why Him?’, thanks to the on-form cast, some good gags and a rather sweet centre too. RATING: 3/5
Review by Gareth O’Connor