By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
In the Son in Law remake no one asked for (especially Pauly Shore), Bryan Cranston stars as Ned Fleming, a Midwestern, middle-age, middle-class owner of a struggling printing company. His pride and joy is his Stanford-attending daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), who has quite the surprise in store for Ned and wife Barb (Megan Mullally) when she invites them out to California for Christmas to meet her new boyfriend, Laird (James Franco).
This occurs after a cringe-worthy first impression Laird makes on the family when a video chat with Stephanie at Ned’s birthday party goes awry. Stephanie attempts to smooth things out by giving them the chance to really get to know Laird, who they soon discover is not only ten years older than Stephanie but also a multi-millionaire video game developer with a vocabulary of expletives as extensive as his collection of impulse tattoos.
Including one of the family’s Christmas card.
Aside from the whole filthy, stinking, ridiculously rich part, Laird is Ned’s worst nightmare. To top it all off, Laird’s entire mansion is paper-free (yup, even the bathroom), and as we learned earlier, paper is Ned’s whole business. Oh, the differences between these two! Once Laird begins to win over both Barb and their teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck), Ned becomes even more resistant and determined to break the couple up. Especially when Laird starts talking marriage.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t laugh during Why Him? There are some pretty funny moments and a lot of the movie is so absurdly outrageous it’s hard not to get at least a little caught up in it. (Especially in a theater full of people taking a much-needed break from holiday stress. But a note to the loud over-reactor lady at my screening: Calm the hell down. You don’t need to gasp or “oh no!” at every. little. thing.)
It helps that the majority of the cast is made up of comedy pros who were given lots of room to improvise. TV vets Cranston, Mullally, and Keegan-Michael Key (as Laird’s right-hand man Gustav) are excellent and each gets a standout scene or two. Kaley Cuoco voices Laird’s foul-mouthed Siri-esque personal assistant, which in the world of this movie makes perfect sense.
Franco embodies his outlandish character almost too well (I have a feeling he enjoys making people uncomfortable) and pairs well with Cranston.
In addition to Son in Law, Why Him? is also is also reminiscent of the Meet the Parents franchise. That’s no coincidence as writer/director John Hamburg also penned the Parents/Fockers movies. It feels very familiar in many respects; however it lacks the heart of its predecessors (Son in Law included), instead relying on lazy gross-out gags, vulgar language, and shock humor to get as many cheap laughs as possible.
Again, don’t get me wrong, a lot of it quite funny, but it loses its effectiveness and gets tiresome after a while. When the dirty word is no longer part of the joke, but the whole joke, there is a problem. By contrast, the film’s funniest scene contains little to no dialogue and relies on the facial expressions and physical comedy talents of Cranston and Key.
Like the two lead characters, the film is a product- borderlining on parody- of its time. This is what R-rated mainstream comedy is now.
I honestly thought there’d be nowhere left to go after this abomination, but nope! Now we have a giant tank of moose urine just waiting to be broken. The hilarity!
We, the audience, are supposed to both root for and cringe at Laird. The “cringe at” part is easy of course, and while Franco does have that eager puppy-dog charm that saves his character from coming off as a one-dimensional douchebag, it’s hard to root for Laird and Stephanie because they never seem like an actual couple.
Aside from a one-off line from Stephanie about loving Laird because he reminds her of her father (how exactly?), it’s hard to tell what she sees in him since she always appears to be annoyed and embarrassed by him. Part of the blame falls on the writers for not giving Deutch much to do other than be the source of conflict between Ned and Laird, but it would help if she and Franco had even a shred of romantic chemistry, which they do not. Every scene between them looks like it was shot on their first day of filming. It feels awkward, especially compared to how easily Franco and Cranston play off each other.
Franco and Rogen on the other hand– now there’s some sexual chemistry
After all the insanity of the first two acts of Why Him?, the film takes a sharp turn and attempts to go for a sweet and heartwarming finish. Literally one scene before everything comes together and all-is-forgiven there is actual ball-biting going on. The sentimentality is never earned and feels tacked on, because it’s time to end the movie.
Also tacked on, the idea that Stephanie actually has a say in her own life. What a concept!
Why Him? is more fun than it should be thanks to the game cast and overall ludicrousness. But a predictable plot and overuse of lazy, poopy humor hold it back from being one of the better comedies of 2016.
Why Him? (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time “paper” is mentioned
Take a Drink: obscene art
Take a Drink: for every KISS song or reference
Take a Drink: whenever Laird hits on Barb
Take a Drink: Earthlink
Take a Drink: MOOSE URINE!
Take a Drink: whenever anyone makes a sexual comment about Stephanie to Ned
Take a Drink: every time weird food is served
Do a Shot: if you can predict the celebrity cameo(s) (I did!)