The meet-the-parents farcical jaunt is nothing new to our screens – we’ve seen this comedic trope in many a successful romantic comedy. In fact, director and co-writer, Jon Hamburg, is the very mind behind Meet the Fockers. However, Hamburg has taken the Father-Daughter-Boyfriend tangled triangle well and truly into the age of the Millennial.
We’re introduced to the Flemings’ at a birthday party for Ned (Bryan Cranston), the family patriarch. Through a photo montage, we can tell someone’s missing. Neds daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), who is studying at Stanford. But hey, remember we’re in the 21st century, Stephanie can still be at the party! A FaceTime conversation ensues, plans for the Flemings to join Stephanie for Christmas are arranged. Cue James Franco’s bare ass, as Stephanie’s new boyfriend, Laird. And we have the premise for the film. Ned Fleming vs. Laird. Old vs. New.
James Franco is at his rambunctious best, playing Laird with an energy that both amuses and annoys the viewer. Laird is a highly successful video game developer, which naturally means he is quirky, free-spirited – the epitome of the young silicon-valley tech mogul. We are supposed to believe that anyone with that amount of money has no sense because they don’t need to – this is where Franco’s character can get on your nerves. Franco and Deutch have a tender, steady chemistry throughout the film, the relationship feels genuine, and with small, touching moments scattered throughout the film.
Anyone who has seen Bryan Cranston on a chat show, or on Instagram, knows the man has some serious comedy chops. However, he rarely gets a chance to showcase them here as straight-laced Ned, the antithesis to Franco’s Laird. His best moments are ones he shares with on screen wife Barb (Megan Mullaly).
While it does have its laugh-out-loud moments, Why Him? just feels a little forced by Hamburg. Hamburg has tried to apply this film to the ‘new’ world – one of Siri, smartphones and millennials (they are to blame for everything!). Many parts feel like the film is just trying to wink-wink, nudge-nudge its audience into having a good time, by fashioning jokes only relevant to our current society.
A fun holiday film, but not one for the ages. And when you see Jonah Hill with a writing credit, much more of the film makes sense.