30 Movies in 30 Days: Why Him?

Had I seen it before: Yes.

What IMDb says about it: A holiday gathering threatens to go off the rails when Ned Fleming realizes that his daughter’s Silicon Valley millionaire boyfriend is about to pop the question.

Requirements fulfilled:
A movie I like but haven’t seen in over a year.

Why I picked it: I was going through my DVD collection trying to find Whiplash and got distracted.

What I liked about it: I went to see this movie in theaters back in 2016 with rather low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. It takes what may seem like a tired premise and put just enough of a twist on it to make it feel fresh and updated, largely because of the three characters at the heart of the conflict: Laird (James Franco, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and Ned (Bryan Cranston).

Laird is a multi-millionaire after founding a tech startup and this is the main thing that sets Why Him? apart from similar movies like Meet the Parents. It also allows this movie to reach levels of ridiculousness far beyond Meet the Parents. Laird is over-the-top offensive but also completely lacks self-awareness. This allows him to be repulsive while still having this sort of puppy dog just-trying-his-best quality. We never get the impression that he is malicious and so it’s easy to see why Stephanie likes him while simultaneously seeing why Ned doesn’t.

That is the real secret to this movie’s success: Laird is so well-written and well acted that Ned and Stephanie can have polar opposite opinions of him and we don’t begrudge either for having that opinion. We never feel like Stephanie is just a crazy hormone-driven young girl who must be stopped from making rash decisions, but instead see her as intelligent and in control of her own life. We see that she isn’t afraid of standing up to Laird or Ned depending on who happens to be wrong at this particular moment. She is a woman guided by her own conscience, and not by her boyfriend or her father.

Ned may be a bit old-school and he’s certainly protective of his daughter, but he never quite crosses that line into crazy and obsessive. We know that all of his motivation comes from just wanting the best for Stephanie. It is this father-daughter dynamic that I think the movie really nailed. Even though Ned and Stephanie spend most of their time at odds with each other, we still understand that it all comes from a place of love. We still see them speaking honestly and openly with each other as mature adults, without Ned ever playing the “because I’m your father” card. And maybe I’m just not aware of them, but I feel like it’s been a little while since Hollywood portrayed a father/daughter relationship that was loving and healthy so this was nice to see.

I also will say the the movie was unpredictable and rebelled against some of my typical romcom pet peeves. That was nice.

What I didn’t like: Honestly I’m not even sure this counts as something didn’t like but I will say the humor of this movies is really crude and immature times, and for that reason the movie certainly isn’t for everyone. There are certainly moments where I was like “is that really necessary?” but it wasn’t enough to ruin the whole movie for me.

Will I watch it again: Potentially. I wouldn’t consider this one of my all time favorites that I need to see over and over again but I do own a copy of it and there may be another day when I get distracted looking for the Whiplash DVD.

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