Starring James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key, Cedric the Entertainer
Both James Franco (Spring Breakers) and Bryan Cranston (The Infiltrator) watched their recent film projects tank financially and critically. They combine their misfortune for a raunchy summer comedy, tweaked to grab that holiday traffic. While prestigious awards films are platforming in cinemas, Why Him offers toilet humor for audiences seeking antidotal laughs or a modern rendering of Steve Martin’s Father of the Bride. It’s Franco’s first mainstream role since nearly causing a war with The Interview. It’s a more involved performance from the indie actor who releases about six films a year. Cranston very quickly transitioned from television actor to movie star, but has seen a number of films tank, including one of 2016’s worst Get a Job.
Ned (Cranston) and Barb (Mullally) first spot their college daughter’s boyfriend Laird Mayhew (Franco) in a most humiliating state of undress. Once they realize this is a serious relationship, the family, including 15-year-old Scott (Griffin Gluck) fly out to Southern California to spend the holiday and talk sense into their with their daughter. Stephanie (Deutch) has plans to make her parents and tattooed media mogul boyfriend get along. In a series of mishaps and overstepping boundaries, The Fleming family is ready to return to Michigan, until the charismatic Laird begins winning them over one by one. “His heart is always in the right place,” Stephanie explains. Ned makes it his personal mission to try and separate Laird from his daughter.
Offers toilet humor for audiences seeking antidotal laughs from all the prestigious awards films this fall.
From the opening sequences, both involving Franco and nudity, Why Him announces its intention to be completely unrealistic and over-the-top for the duration. The script has a few funny moments, saving it from utter boredom, but it mostly just airs a laundry list of gags that would be more appropriate on SNL. Franco flaunts his body throughout the film (beer gut gone, teeth are whitened), but in many of the slapstick sequences (written by his pal Jonah Hill), he looks as uncomfortable as the Oscar audience when he hosted. On the other hand, Cranston’s modern impersonation of another Oscar host, Steve Martin, is pretty spot on. It’s Mullally who gets most of the good laughs, despite being relegated to the background for most of the story.
When the skits are over, the story still must play out and come to the predictable conclusion. That’s where Why Him is the weakest. From the simplistic poster, you already know how this by-the-numbers-plot is going to play out. At 111 minutes, it’s still about 30 minutes too long, as it briskly walks towards the inevitable. There isn’t much to gain here aside from wasting time on a film you will forget in no time flat. Why Him is from the screenwriter of Meet the Parents, and will offer an escape for ticket buyers resistant to the seasons highest film quality, an no doubt will find an audience as American comedy continues to barrel towards gutter humor and away from intelligence and wit.
Despite a toilet humor laughs, Why Him is just another crude comedy that’s as predictable as a bowl movement.