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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bryan Cranston and James Franco star in Why Him?, a funny, if crass (and ultimately unoriginal), holiday-themed comedy about parenting, love, careers, and family. There's lots of swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more) and some nudity (mostly backsides), as well as frank conversations about libido, sex acts, and more. There's also plenty of brand-name dropping, as well as drinking, vaping,and marijuana use. That said, amid the over-the-top gags is the idea that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and that open, honest communication is key to resolving family conflicts and misunderstandings. And, although it doesn't work out perfectly, the film does try to show an awareness of feminist values.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In WHY HIM?, Michigan dad/paper purveyor Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) tries to keep a cheery facade during the holidays, even as his company is hemorrhaging money and losing business to the Internet. A visit to California to see his daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), at Stanford should cheer him up. But then Ned meets her boyfriend (James Franco), Laird Meyhew, a foul-mouthed app-game mogul with a wacky sidekick (Keegan Michael Key) and an even wackier set of quirks (including always being on perpetual alert for a "friendly attack" from said sidekick, who's training Laird to defend himself from kidnappers). Laird also speaks his mind a little too often and and a little too bluntly, shamelessly calling Ned's wife (Megan Mullally) a MILF and teaching Stephanie's younger brother how to flirt. It's a recipe for a holiday disaster.
Is it any good?
Thanks to energetic, fearless performances from its stars, this often-crass comedy overcomes a pull toward mediocrity. The five lead actors -- and, really, the whole ensemble -- are, frankly, fantastic. Too bad the script can't seem to distinguish the witty from the cheesy, relying on tired cliches -- the wacky tech entrepreneur, the staid father, the same old generational arguments -- that feel done to death.
Why Him? does deserve kudos for trying to inject some empowerment- and equality-minded ideas into the mix. But the execution is faulty: The film seems to contradict its own awareness of feminist values by incorporating more sexist ideas. Plus, it's too crowded, with characters who don't do very much and plot points that go nowhere or are just plain archaic, such as an exploration of conflicting generational attitudes toward technology.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether they noticed any stereotyping in Why Him? Why does that matter? Did you only see stereotypes being reinforced, or were they challenged in the area of father-daughter relationships and romantic relationships?
Teens -- do you agree with how the film addressed ideas like leaving college early to work, the importance of knowing who you are before you get married, what makes a feminist, and more? Talk to your parents about your own thoughts on these big topics.
Would you consider the movie feminist or sexist? Can it be both? If so, how?
What role do sex, nudity and sexual innuendo play in the movie? Does crass behavior take away from the humor?
- In theaters: December 23, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 28, 2017
- Cast: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch
- Director: John Hamburg
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong language and sexual material throughout