We have all had to answer the question about why we choose to bring home our partners to our family, and for most of us, it’s only a matter of time before they are accepted and loved by most.
That is, provided they do not swear like a sailor or walk around the house without a shirt (or nothing at all).
James Franco plays Laird Mayhew, the man in question who just isn’t good enough for old school Ned Fleming’s (Bryan Cranston) daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). Think Pineapple Express meets Breaking Bad, and you have a battle between the innovative, Silicon Valley tech billionaire and the conservative yet adored printing business manager who refuses to move into the digital age.
Everything about Laird is wacky; his paperless house (which makes for uncomfortable bathroom scenes), his bodyguard “Gustav,” and the tattoo of his girlfriend’s family that was ripped straight from the Christmas card.
Ned is determined to catch him in the act, and indeed Franco successfully keeps us guessing about the true nature of his character, all the while charming the likes of Stephanie’s family. Megan Mullaly who plays wife Barb is especially delightful as she is more than happy to be charmed by Laird with cringy yet hilarious results.
At times, the jokes are a bit laboured and we do wonder how such a significant relationship has seemingly gone unnoticed by two doting parents. WH makes a point of pointing out our prejudices and directing our petty greivances in what should be a joyous occasion. It does not become preachy nor is it passive in demanding that we just tolerate uncomfortable behaviour.
The Christmas movie feel shines in director John Hamburg’s work, and it becomes evident that previous films like Meet the Parents have fleeting references. Ben Stiller and Jonah’s Hill’s collaboration is also marked, with the latter adding a college humour arc to the script.
I’ll conclude by answering the movie’s question with a question: Why Not?