20th Century Fox 151 minutes R
Why Him? Why bother! What a waste of great talent! This is Meet the Parents gone wrong starring James Franco as Laird, a high tech gazillionaire about to ask Ned Fleming played by Bryan Cranston, for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Stephanie, (Zoey Deutch) is a student at Stanford with big, idealistic dreams. She is the prospective bride taken with the outrageous Laird and his many high tech projects and foundations.
Franco couldn’t be any more of a loose cannon in this role. We remember asking Seth Rogen and his producing partner Evan Goldberg who was the craziest on the set of This is the End, and they both first said Jonah Hill, .…no, James Franco! Well, here, Franco gets to be even more crazy on the big screen.
Director John Hamburg was Franco’s professor at NYU. He (Jonah Hill helped with the story and Ian Helfer) wrote this one, Meet the Fockers, Meet the Parents and I Love You Man. He told the cast to feel free to improvise and reportedly shot 240 hours of scenes boiled down to just under 2 hours!
It’s crass, gross, uses every expletive you’ve every heard, plays with a moose aquarium filled with urine that breaks, includes a long scene with Cranston on a toilet and a silly sex scene. Franco is practically in the buff throughout, and the slapstick is more distasteful than funny. He is over the top. The actors probably had a good time, but we found it more uncomfortable and groan worthy than funny.
Ned and wife, Barbara, played by Megan Mullally bring younger brother, Scotty, (Griffin Gluck) to meet the groom wannabe at his ultra modern estate complete with the flamboyant Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key, Key and Peele). He is Laird’s houseman who takes care of all the details and makes right or tries to make right all the ridiculous things Laird says and does. Gustav is one of the only characters we found engaging and entertaining. He reminded us of Agador in Cages aux Folles and is often the only one with any common sense.
Mullally looks great and plays it cute, trying to smooth over Laird’s antics and insults. His futuristic abode is like an enticing trap and his haute cuisine menu is virtually un-edible. Ned tries to bond with Laird to make nice for his daughter. He knows she’s smitten. Little brother, Scotty is the only one who thinks Laird is the bomb with his high tech businesses including cutting edge programs and video games with his staff in his house.
Of course, Laird gets into trouble. There’s a question about his being on the level financially. Everybody panics, and then there are reveals and compromises that come to some kind of pat resolution.
Franco is a talented actor, and we’re sure he had a blast, as did the others, just being as silly as they wanted with or without the script. This is one weird way to show how a family can come together. It’s got a pretty setting, but for the rest of it, including the constant use of crass, gross, language and visuals, you may ask, “Why see this?“