Why Ask Why? (Why Him, 2016)

why_him_posterWritten and Directed by Josh Hamburg (most notably the writer of all three Meet the Parents films) addresses a discussion a friend and I were having recently.  We were talking about films having familiar plots.  My take on this is that I do not generally care if a film has a plot point we “have seen before”. If it does it well?  I am not going to be annoyed by it.  There are only so many plots, and I cannot think of many films that told a tale that has previously unseen elements.  But there is a flip side to this.  A story that follows all the familiar points like a rigid map?  Rarely is it done well.

Which brings us to Why Him.  Like many comedies before it, we are treated to a tale of parents meeting their potential son-in-law and the resulting calamity.  Going in?  I wanted to like this film…almost desperately.  I mean, Bryan Cranston has proven himself as an actor almost always worth watching.  And both Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key are gifted comedic performers.  James Franco is…well he plays some exaggerated form of James Franco in almost any film he is in…and this film is not much of a change there.

It feels like the film is trying very hard to seem unpredictable and edgy.  And yet it follows the rules of family conflict comedies so steadfastly that there is not doubt where the film is going to end.  You see it all coming from miles away.  There is no point where Why Him swerves right when you expected it to swerve left.

Are there times where I was amused?  I guess.  Were there any times where the movie surprised me…not a one.  This is not a smartly made dumb comedy.  This is an uninspired dumb comedy.

The Bigger They Come Part 2 (Godzilla, 2014)

godzilla_2014_posterGodzilla has always seemed to have some trouble when Hollywood takes the reins.  1998’s misguided spectacle is the pinnacle of this.  Gareth Edwards and his team opted to take a step back.  They did not, of course, go with the “Man in Rubber Suit” approach…but their digital Godzilla is far more in line with the traditional Godzilla.

Starting in 1999, there is a mysterious and horrifying event at a nuclear power plant in Janjira, Japan.  American employee Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) loses his wife (Juliette Binoche) in the event, while his relationship with his son Ford becomes estranged as the years pass and Cranston’s obsession with the accident grows.  In 2014, Ford is in the military and returning home to his wife and son.  He gets a call that his father (still in Japan) has been arrested.  The location of the event is off limits to the public, due to claims of radiation.  Joe convinces Ford to explore Janjira one more time…and they discover a a secret research facility and some large monster referred to as a Muto that appears to be in hibernation. Of course, it wakes up and starts seeking it’s other half.

This results in the awakening of something else that comes in to fight these giants.  You know…Godzilla.  Godzilla is setup in this film as the hero, with no questions by the end of how people see him.

Edwards takes a very slow reveal approach.  This serves the film well, making it very satisfying when the audience gets to see Godzilla in full monster lizard glory.  At the same time, the film’s primary focus is on Ford and nurse (and wife) Elle.  And honestly?  They are tremendously boring characters.  So, when the film does not have Cranston or Ken Watanabe or Godzilla on screen, things get dull fast.

The opening credits are really nicely done, giving the audience old news reels indicating the existence of monsters…we get brief hints of Godzilla (mostly his back-plates) and evidence the military attempted to kill him.

Overall, the story is pretty simple, giant monsters appear and fight and cause destruction.  It is a fairly strong attempt to capture the feel of older Godzilla films, and in some ways does it smashingly well.  It is the centering of Ford and Elle that lacks any emotional punch that is needed in a film like this.  What makes it a bit more disappointing is Cranston and Binoche do have chemistry that makes them compelling…and they pull it off in about ten minutes of screen time.

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