“Why Him?” stars Bryan Cranston as a father who meets the man his daughter is dating (James Franco) and starts a feud with him during Christmas. Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key also star as John Hamburg directs.
Both James Franco and Bryan Cranston have been very funny men in very funny projects. Zoey Deutch was the bright spot of “Dirty Grandpa” and Keegan-Michael Key has had some great supporting roles in his career. Plus John Hamburg directed “I Love You, Man” and wrote “Meet the Parents.” So all these people together should have been able to create a very funny movie; or at least one that wasn’t this lazy.
Winter comedies usually aren’t the strongest. “Daddy’s Home,” “The Interview” and “Grudge Match” are all average-at-best films that ended their respective calendar year with thuds. “Why Him?” continues this tradition as it wastes two proven leads with a script that is determined to put the f-bomb in every other sentence, all while having no idea what it truly wants to accomplish.
The highlight of the film (which in this case is a flashlight in a black hole) is Franco, who is having a blast playing a man-child, running around shirtless with random tattoos and swearing in all the wrong settings. We’ve seen Franco do every kind of role imaginable but this is one where he just looks like he’s having fun and isn’t as pretentious as he has occasionally been accused of being.
Bryan Cranston gives an inexplicably dedicated performance, but he isn’t given many actual jokes. He’s almost the film’s villain, because he doesn’t want his daughter marrying Franco just because the old trope “you’re not worth her.” The two have an underdeveloped feud but Franco is consistently trying to patch things up, so we just see him as the innocent nice guy; having him try to outsmart Cranston to win the daughter’s approval would have made for more compelling cinema.
The rest of the cast turns in awkward performances, including a horrible turn from Griffin Gluck as the young son. His delivery is off, his tone is often wrong and he overacts every line; each time he talked I cringed. I hope Megan Mullally got a nice vacation home from her paycheck, because her twerking and trying to strip Bryan Cranston while high was embarrassing to watch.
Now the film is not without its share of laughs, and while they’re pretty spread out the ones that do hit hit hard. Most of the time it is because the circumstance is so ludicrous and unexpected (or unrealistic) that it is impossible to not be amused. There are also a few cameos that steal their respective scenes, and when they showed up the audience seemed happily surprised.
“Why Him?” isn’t that funny and it wastes its cast, but neither of those things should be that big a surprise given the patterns established by mainstream cinema 2016. “Office Christmas Party” is funnier and more festive (never thought I’d be endorsing that film) so if you want laughs at the theater this winter, that’s your best bet.
Critics Rating: 4/10