Starring-John Franco, Bryan Cranston
Scott’s Review #704
Reviewed December 6, 2017
Why Him? is epic film drivel, starring quite capable actors in a mish-mash of dull, predictable story, obnoxious characters, and a need to attempt to go raunchier and raunchier for the sake of a cheap laugh. Why there is a market for films like this is beyond me as no thinking is required (maybe the film will please those fans!), but the film scores slightly higher than a solid “F” based solely on a few chuckles uttered thanks to the only dim bright spots in this mess- Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally.
In a story told dozens of times before in “slapstick comedy” fare, the premise is tired beyond belief- good girl meets bad boy, they fall head over heels in love, and must deal with the aftermath of her parents meeting, and hating, said bad boy. The main gimmick is the rivalry between boyfriend and girlfriends father- think an unfunny Meet the Parents. A silly and uninteresting plot point about each characters business success or lack thereof is mixed in, as if anyone cares. As with all films of this ilk, the story is wrapped up in a neat, tidy, little bow by the time the credits roll and all characters live happily ever after in perfect harmony <gag>.
Cast in one of his most disappointing roles, James Franco stars as Laird Mayhew, a wealthy, eccentric, thirty-something CEO of an upstart video game company. He is foul-mouthed and comically speaks his mind or absentmindedly shows his ass on a skype chat with his girlfriend (Zoey Deutch) Stephanie while her parents are linked to the chat at a birthday party. Stephanie Fleming (Deutch), a college student, and girlfriend of Laird, decides to invite her parents, Ned and Barb (Cranston and Mullally), along with their fifteen-year old Scotty for Christmas holidays. In predictable fashion, Stephanie’s parents are appalled by Laird and want her to have nothing to do with him. When Stephanie arranges for Ned, Barb, and Scotty to stay at Laird’s spacious home, the antics really take off as feuds and misunderstandings erupt.
The main problem with Why Him? is that director John Hamburg (famous for mainstream comedies such as Along Came Polly and I Love You, Man), seems determined to push the raunchy comedy elements further with this idiotic film. He makes Laird as obnoxious and crass as possible, yet tries to make the character more “likable” by giving him a clueless quality- therefore he is not really mean-spirited and should therefore be loved by the audience. The character does not work at all- especially having seen Franco in some terrific roles- specifically 127 Hours and Howl. Being a fan of the talented actor I expected more from him, but alas, some performances are only as good as the material written.
If there is a bright spot worth mentioning it is with the casting of Cranston and Mullally. Two actors undeniably good at physical comedy, they do as much as they can with poorly written, stock type roles. Cranston’s Ned, a middle-class small business owner from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is both envious and resentful of Laird, perhaps admiring the young man’s business savvy and regretting not being as successful. Barb is a one-note, ditzy yet lovable wife- a role made slightly better by Mullally’s goofy portrayal. In one of the best scenes, Barb smokes pot and becomes a disheveled mess in the bedroom. Ned, trapped on the toilet the next morning, has an embarrassing experience with Laird’s best friend, Gustav. These scenes, while juvenile, are made better because of the likes of the funny actors.
Suffering greatly from a tired and overused story-line that falls flat, unlikable and dull characters, the film offers nothing of substance or worth. Why Him? is entirely plot driven with no character development or well-written characters to speak of. The film is a complete waste of time, resulting from a studio hoping to achieve box office success by churning out a poor comedy with wasted talent that will please only those audiences not expecting much out of their films.