111 minutes (15)
It’s been 16 years since Meet The Parents arrived in cinemas but despite two further sequels, it would appear that we are due a revisit of sorts only this time Ben Stiller has been replaced by the more obnoxious James Franco.
That’s not the only role reversal going on here either with Bryan Cranston cast as the earnest father of Zoey Deutch, who is in danger of ditching her academic studies for a life as the partner of Franco’s Laird Mayhew – a tech billionaire with more money than sense.
Cast in the role of straight man, Cranston does an admirable job with limited material as the film sees him and his family spending Christmas with Franco and Deutch during a break in which the computer games designer plans to propose to his pride and joy.
Hilarity ensues and while there are plenty of funny moments along the way, the movie lacks the same kind of memorable set pieces found in Meet The Parents and other films of the same ilk.
All those years on Malcolm in the Middle have paid off, with Cranston’s comedy timing and reactions as on point as ever. Franco, meanwhile, may be an acquired taste but he still does solid work with a so-so script.
Arguably the film’s most memorable scene sees Cranston stranded on a paperless toilet and left feeling excruciatingly awkward as first Franco’s assistant and later his high tech in-home artificial intelligence system attempt to help in a scene soaked in cringeworthy comedy gold.
Played by Keegan-Michael Key and Kaley Cuoco (voice only) respectively, these secondary characters often provide some of the film’s more memorable comedic moments, with Key bouncing off with Franco to great effect in their scenes together.
They aren’t the only ones criminally underused either, with Casey Wilson, Andrew Rannells, Cedric The Entertainer and Adam DeVine appearing all-too-fleetingly.
Running at close to two hours, the film also feels too long for a comedy caper and lurches towards a conclusion that’s largely unsatisfying, regardless of who you are rooting for.
That said, there is at least one enjoyably daft fight scene involving Cranston and Franco which provides a few chuckles and while it won’t win many awards, or even a sequel, it’s still an enjoyable, if slightly unoriginal, bit of comedy fluff.
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