Why Him? A Raunchier Redux of Meet the Parents

Laird (James Franco, left) meets his girlfriend Stephanie’s (Zoey Deutch) family: Ned (Bryan Cranston), Barb (Megan Mullally) and Scotty (Griffin Gluck). Photo Credit: Scott Garfield.

Why Him? is without a doubt a raunchier version of Meet the Parents. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone since director John Hamburg, who co-wrote the screenplay and story, was a writer or co-writer for all three films in the Meet the Parents franchise.

Hamburg co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Helfer. The duo co-wrote the story with Jonah Hill. The movie stars James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, and Keegan-Michael Key. Cedric the Entertainer, Zack Pearlman, Steve Aoki, Casey Wilson, Andrew Rannells, and Adam DeVine are also in the cast.

After my initial viewing, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to Meet the Parents, the 2000 comedy staring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. Franco isn’t Stiller and Cranston isn’t De Niro. I couldn’t imagine Stiller mooning De Niro as Franco does in this film while he walks in as Stephanie (Deutch) wishes Ned (Cranston) a happy birthday.

Ned Fleming owns a printing company in the Grand Rapids and it’s in major financial trouble. He lives at home with his wife Barb (Mullally) and their son, Scotty (Gluck). His daughter Stephanie invites the family to spend the holiday with her in California at her boyfriend’s house. Her boyfriend being Laird (Franco), who is rich and in Ned’s view, inappropriate.

Upon first meeting, Laird appears to be too much for the Flemings. His language is R-rated. His personality leads Ned to dislike him from the get go. It doesn’t matter what Stephanie thinks about him, Ned just doesn’t like him. Ned has a pragmatic perspective on life while Laird is the polar opposite.

It gets worse for Ned when Laird reveals that he’s going to propose to Stephanie in a few days but won’t do it without his blessing. Laird realizes he won’t ever win Ned over so he starts working on Barb and Scott. Meanwhile, Ned is going to see to it that Laird doesn’t propose at all.

Things end rather chaotic and the Flemings leave California for the midwest with things not so great with Stephanie. It’s not her fault except it is. She just happens to have the one boyfriend who Ned doesn’t like.

The laughs that do come are of the crude favor. Keegan-Michael Key plays the estate manager, Gustav, and does so with an accent. He also attacks him when he’s least expecting it.

“The whole show really is about these two men and their stubbornness about how they maneuver around each other for the favors of the daughter,” Cranston says of the relationships in the film. “Ned Fleming and Laird Mayhew are different in every way—level of education, where they were raised, who they were raised by, the principles by which they were raised—everything. The way they live, their taste in music, their generation—everything about them is a complete opposite of each other. Naturally there’s going to be friction because they just can’t relate to each other in any way.”

There aren’t many comedy films to choose from this month but I wouldn’t consider rushing out to the theaters to see Why Him? Moviegoers can do better.

20th Century Fox opened Why Him? on December 23, 2016.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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