Movie Review: "Why Him?"

John Thomas

There is always a line. A line between too far and not far enough. Between good and bad, enough and too much, tasteful and tasteless, funny and vulgar, old and new. Director John Hamburg has managed to nimbly stroll the line between all of these opposites in his delightfully hilarious new film “Why Him?”

I should mention at the outset, that I am not a fan of using profanity to express a thought or an idea. I feel there is always a better more descriptive word to use than one with only four letters. When the flood of profanity spews forth from Laird’s (James Franco) mouth it is so excessive and ridiculously funny that I couldn’t help but laugh - nor could the rest of the audience.

This language comes from a heart of gold, tucked away under his tattooed, pumped-up pectoral muscle, and with the compellingly sincere gaze radiating from his innocent brown eyes. I couldn’t imagine any other dialogue that would have been as descriptive, direct and screamingly funny. How did that happen? It happened with skill and sensitivity, those qualities (and numerous others) Hamburg has used throughout this film.

The daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is a student at Stanford University and has fallen for Laird, a wealthy eccentric. Her wish, and the plot the film, is to arrange a meeting between Laird and her family. Her father Ned, (Bryan Cranston), her mother, Barb (Megan Mullally) and brother, Scotty (Griffin Gluck) finally concede to fly west to meet “him.”

Stephanie’s reservations about the meeting are Laird’s exotic appearance and his bubbling enthusiasm. She decides to move forward with the travel plans anyway. Sparks fly when the “old” meets the “new,” - Ned remains civil, while Laird is simply Laird. Scotty is immediately thrilled with everything and Barb appears intrigued. This is the fresh, sparkling 2016 version of boy-meets family scenario. Ned and Laird are perfectly cast to dance circles around each other, while accessing this new and startling situation into which they have suddenly been plunged.

“The heart of Gold” is frantic to make a favorable impression on the family and goes to hysterically extreme lengths to achieve this goal. There are uproarious scenes throughout the film that bring spontaneous bursts of laughter from the audience as Laird moves from one zany idea to the next. Everything is possible for him because of his wealth and desire to appear a suitable match for Stephanie.

Everything seems to be moving in a positive direction, everyone appears happy, if not a tad crazy, until it all stops and suitcases are packed. Ned, Barb, Stephanie and Scotty may have returned home to Michigan’s freezing temperatures, but the warmth, radiance and color of California have not been completely left behind. Well it was momentarily, but not for long.

The producers and director have assembled a brilliant cast and crew to create this film for movie-enthusiasts of all ages. A harmonious balance between endless contrasts in the story continues smoothly to the end of the film. Hamburg finds nothing too extreme to be shown or said. He is able to do so because he shows or says it tastefully, with creativity and a great sense humor. Actually, I would be hard pressed to think of another way to tell this fun-loving romp of a story. Even the pubic hair scene is just enough, yet not too much.

[20th Century Fox, 01:51, now playing locally]



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