Susan Granger’s review of “Why Him” (20th Century Fox)
According to writer/director John Hamburg, the idea for this crude, crass comedy about an uptight father meeting his daughter’s obnoxious boyfriend came from Shawn Levy when they were making “Night at the Museum.”
What particularly intrigued Hamburg was how the world had changed since he made “Meet the Parents.” Previously, adults were in charge; now, young Silicon Valley techies have become billionaires. So he made that generational conflict the pivotal point.
Stanford senior Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch) is in love with 32 year-old Laird Mayhew (James Franco), an unconventional, narcissistic video-game mogul. And now her Midwestern parents are coming to California for Christmas.
Her doting father Ned (Bryan Cranston) and overprotective mother Barb (Megan Mullally) have no idea that Stephanie has quit college and moved in with profanity-spewing Laird until they – along with Stephanie’s teenage brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) – arrive at his Xanadu-like mansion in Palo Alto.
Laird’s zany estate is managed by his trainer Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key) and a disembodied computer guru, Justine (Kaley Cuoco) – with a New Age chef serving edible soil, topped with plankton foam.
Laird’s wealth is even more galling to Ned, whose old-fashioned printing business in Michigan, is rapidly failing, since Laird has a paperless house, fitted with electronic Japanese commodes with bidet sprays, eliminating the need for toilet paper.
Scripted by Hamburg, Ian Helfer and Jonah Hill, it’s occasionally amusing but, since Stephanie’s character is so underwritten, there’s no empathy for her choice of outlandishly eccentric, shrewdly manipulative Laird.
There are cameos by Elon Musk and the Band KISS, along with timely relevance when suspicious Ned investigates Laird’s finances, discovering that much has been fraudulently inflated.
But many gags are telegraphed in advance, like the inevitable disaster involving an aquarium holding a dead moose entombed in its own urine. And while Ned realizes Gustav’s ambushes parallel Kato’s in “Pink Panther” movies, neither Laird nor Gustav understand the cultural reference.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Why Him?” is a blatantly raunchy 4, prompting the question: Why bother?