“Bryan Cranston and James Franco fight the ultimate battle of wits and wills in this outrageous, no-holds-barred comedy from filmmaker John Hamburg (I Love You, Man, Along Came Polly, Meet the Parents, Zoolander). Ned (Cranston), an overprotective but loving dad, and his family visit his daughter at college, where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird (Franco). A rivalry develops, and Ned’s panic level goes through the roof when he finds himself lost in this glamorous high-tech world and learns that Laird is about to pop the question.”
This first thing you must do while watching Why Him?, besides asking yourself “Why me?”, is to sift through the mess of character and story that seems to have no structure whatsoever, to the point that even the ‘official synopsis’ on the back of the film gets it totally wrong.
We are first introduced to Laird and Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) as they video chat on their phones. The first thing you may wonder is why this almost forty year old man who looks like a pedophile is dating this college student. After suspending your disbelief a bit here, we are then introduced to Ned and his family, who themselves are introduced to Laird via video chat as they celebrate Ned’s birthday, who arrives early in Stephanie’s dorm room, promptly taking off his pants. The family decides to take a trip to California for Christmas to meet Stephanie’s boyfriend, who they are surprised to learn is a millionaire tech-guru, and basically an overgrown, vulgar child.
Laird is socially awkward when it comes to these situations, and does all he can to try and bond with Ned. No rivalry is created here. Laird, although he acts like a child, he also inherits that child-like innocence to him and doesn’t have a single bad bone in his body. Laird’s lifestyle and care-free attitude clash with Ned’s, who is struggling to discover all these things he didn’t know about his daughter. When Ned learns of Laird’s intentions to ask Stephanie to marry him, he does everything he can to find some dirt on Laird, but to no avail, causing a rift between his family and potentially ruining Christmas.
Though I have many issues with this film, the most prominent is the identity of the film. I still have trouble even describing it. The film is marketed as the meeting of the worst possible boyfriend your daughter could bring home. This isn’t what the movie is. From the first five minutes of the film you see the juxtaposition of age and technology.
The younger generation, more comfortable with technology and use it in their everyday lives, and the older generation, who struggle to use it and often times it ends up badly. More than anything else, this is what this film is. Ned is taken from his birthday party where he literally smashes a laptop against a wall to turn off the naked image of Laird’s posterior and dropped in a world where Laird creates new technology and applications, which is his everyday life. As you can imagine, this causes the setup for a variety of old person vs. technology gags that all fall terribly flat. Talking to a virtual assistant, even sitting on a toilet, this is truly a fish out of water story that can’t be any more paint-by-numbers. Ned even owns a print company, which is dying out thanks to the digital age.
Another thing that doesn’t seem to have much focus is Ned’s character. He’s supposed to be an old fashioned guy, reserved, pretty much the antithesis of Laird. Then there are times he acts completely out of character, cutting down a Christmas tree of a rival tech company, essentially stealing it when Laird can’t figure out how to use the chainsaw. This goes totally against the marketed version of the film in which we expect more of a Meet the Parents type film with more pronounced conflict between the parent and potential husband.
The one silver lining in Why Him? has to be Keegan-Michael Key as Gustav. He absolutely steals every scene he’s in, and is by far the funniest thing in the film. Although I wouldn’t call any of the acting bad, it seems that Bryan Cranston is just going through the motions here, and James Franco is just being himself. The supporting cast can be quite funny as well, but all of this combined isn’t enough to save Why Him? from forgettable status.
Why Him? is presented in 4k Ultra High Definition Widescreen 1.85:1. The 4k transfer looks quite nice, with beautiful life-like colors and well balanced tones. With the majority of the film taking place in the daylight, many scenes outside, the picture is very bright and vivid. With no filters or special effects to consider, this is a straight forwardly good transfer with no defects noticed.
The Blu-Ray disc included in this set is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen at 1.85:1.
The audio on the 4k disc is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. With this comedy, you’re basically going to be hearing the majority of the film through the center channel. There are a few scenes that utilize the surrounds, giving a good balance of audio, especially during some of the more powerfully loud scenes.
There are quite a few special features on this set which are contained on the Blu-Ray disc. On this set you’re going to see:
- Why Him? in High Definition
- Why Him? Gag Reel
- 47 Minutes on the Can
- Why Gustav?
- Barb Fleming: America’s Mom
- Lou the Entertainer
- Richard Blais: Twisted Chef
- Deleted Scenes
- Audio Commentary by John Hamburg (Director/Co-Writer), Ian Helfer (Co-Writer) and William Kerr (Editor)
Although there can be a few laughs in Why Him? the lack of direction, character, and poor writing makes this a very bland film that was marketed very badly. Why Him? will have viewers just simply questioning “why”?