There’s one context in which James Franco starts to seem like a bona fide movie star: whenever his character is meant to be dialed up to 11. And that’s where you’ll find him playing Laird Mayhew, an unfiltered, tatted-up video-game millionaire trying to impress Ned (Bryan Cranston) and Barb Fleming (Megan Mullally), the Midwestern parents of his girlfriend (Zoey Deutch) during a Christmas week visit to his California mansion. Plenty of broad, crude, R-rated shenanigans ensue in the story from co-writer/director John Hamburg (I Love You, Man)—a literal tidal wave of piss may be involved, along with the malfunctioning of a high-tech toilet—with predictably uneven results. But Cranston and Mullally are aces at their incredulous-bordering-on-horrified reaction takes, which proves pretty crucial in a story where that’s more or less the entire plot. Franco, meanwhile, goes for the gusto playing a guy with a completely ingenuous sincerity behind his obliviousness to decorum, making him—and God forgive me for saying so—almost endearing. It may be the kind of studio comedy that telegraphs its inevitable weird cameos, but at least it sells the weirdness at its center.
Director: John Hamburg
Producer: Shawn Levy, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Dan Levine and Georgia Kacandes
Cast: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman, Casey Wilson, Cedric the Entertainer, Andrew Rannells and Steve Aoki