During the holidays, loving but overprotective Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) travels to California to visit his daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) at Stanford University. While there, he meets his biggest nightmare, her well-meaning but socially awkward boyfriend Laird (James Franco). Even though Laird is a billionaire, Ned disapproves of his freewheeling attitude and unfiltered language. His panic level escalates even further when he learns that Laird plans to ask for Stephanie’s hand in marriage.
There is absolutely nothing new about this film. A over-protective father is jealous when his daughter is in love with a boyfriend which he doesn’t approve of. This has been done countless times in films. The big selling point here is Bryan Cranston and James Franco who are competing against each other here. The thing about most comedies is that the trailers often give the good parts away. This was the case here, giving us glimpses of Franco’s character Laird, but there was still plenty of fun to be had.
Stephanie invites her parents Ned and Barb (Megan Mullally) and her brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) to California over Christmas to meet Laird for themselves. She didn’t tell them anything about him so they wouldn’t jump to conclusions but that was exactly what they did when they first met. Everybody got a glimpse of that meeting in the trailers. There we see the main source of conflict between Ned and Laird being the generational gap. This is exemplified in Ned, the owner of a struggling printing company, competing against Laird, a tech billionaire.
Despite the generational differences, they both just wanted what was best for Stephanie in their own way. Of course it took them some time to see it as their egos got in the way. Ned just never understood why Stephanie would ever want to be with a man like Laird, at least based on what we got to see of him (hence the title). He was pretty much a successful, eccentric man-child which baffled Ned. Over time, Laird would get close to all the Flemings but Ned was still convinced that he was up to something and trying to convince others of this but to no avail.
The film, being nothing new, went pretty much as expected with Ned eventually getting to know Laird over time of his own. Most of the funny stuff was already in the trailers but it was still funny here. Laird is an over the top character who went too far at times which made him annoying. He swore a lot and said a lot of outrageous things but they sometimes felt gratuitous in that they were just done for the sake of doing it. He flaunted his wealth and eccentricity which led to many funny moments involving him, Ned, and the rest of his family.
The acting was okay throughout with Franco and Cranston being the obvious standouts. Laird’s personality could have made him unlikable but Franco prevents this by not making him a caricature and showing range with the eccentric side and a caring side. Cranston was also likable and funny here, reacting to the situations Ned is put in. His chemistry with Franco elevates a rather mundane plot and makes them fun to watch. Mullally was also great as Barb, in a smaller role, having great chemistry with Franco and Cranston while committing to the crazy stuff she was asked to do. Keegan Michael-Key stole scenes as Laird’s friend (I’m not really sure what his job was) Gustav. He had the best lines and his other lines which were probably not meant to be funny were funny because of his delivery.
Overall, this was a fun comedy with a familiar story and featuring entertaining performances by Franco and Cranston.
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Categories: Movie Reviews