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MOVIE REVIEW: Why Him? Why Not?

 Cast of the movie, Why Him?, featuring (left to right) James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, and Griffin Gluck. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox Cast of the movie, Why Him?, featuring (left to right) James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, and Griffin Gluck.

The Fleming family, dad, Ned (Bryan Cranston), mom Barb (Megan Mullally), and son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) head to California to spend the holidays with Ned’s and Barb’s older daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) who attends Stanford. Things unravel quickly. First, rather than staying in the luxury hotel suite that Ned proudly obtained at a discount rate, Stephanie announces that the family will stay with her boyfriend. A boyfriend the family didn’t know she had. When they arrive at his house, it’s some house: a multimillion dollar 21st Century state-of-the-art estate. And her boyfriend, Laird Mayhew (James Franco) turns out to be a wealthy Silicon Valley executive who greets them shirtless displaying a multitude of tattoos, having heard so much more about them from Stephanie. The Flemings reluctantly agree to stay with Laird. Ned is quickly turned off by Laird’s crass behavior: dropping F-bombs with almost every other word, talking openly about private moments with Stephanie and overall just trying too hard to become a member of the family. Why Him? follows the Flemings through the holidays as they get to know this person who might become a member of their family.

Why Him? works on so many levels and gets an overwhelming See It! rating. Conflicts and issues are the keys to any great story. The film has a literal smorgasbord of issues large and small: boyfriend - girlfriend; father – daughter; wife – husband; old school – new school views on relationships; and new technology versus the old way of doing things.

Successful filmmaking thrives on a very basic formula: an interesting story with characters that viewers connect with brought to life by good actors. Why Him? has it all. This movie takes an age old plot – father objects to his daughter’s suitor – but gives it a different twist. Usually, the boyfriend isn’t successful. But here Laird is highly successful, rich, and internationally known. But Ned believes that Laird’s just too crass. However, maybe this film is a bit naïve as to the impact millions of dollars would have on softening Ned’s middle-class attitudes toward his possible son-in-law. After all, Laird does love Stephanie and is fundamentally a nice guy. Also, Ned’s small business is floundering.

One of the weaker aspects of this otherwise solid production starts with Laird’s claim that he’s setting up a foundation which will be run by Stephanie, which raises suspicions with Ned. So he enlists his small business’ tech guy to hack into Laird’s computer to see if Laird really has the resources to fund a foundation. And this effort fails miserably since the very savvy Laird has installed the most sophisticated anti-hacking software. This is an unrealistic and unlikely gesture. Laird’s financials would be public knowledge. Simply googling Laird would yield articles and other information on his wealth.

Why Him? gets an “A” cast diversity. Actor/comedian Keegan-Michael Key plays Laird’s estate manager and life coach. Comedian Cedric the Entertainer is the second in command in Ned’s printing company. And there are other individuals of color in supporting roles.

Why Him? is 111 minutes and rated R for strong language and sexual material throughout. This movie gets a strong See It! rating for its great storylines and solid performances.