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The City Journals

Dan's Review: "Why Him?" a cringe-worthy effort

Dec 23, 2016 12:54AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, and James Franco in Why Him? - © 20th Century Fox.

Why Him? (20th Century Fox)

Rated R for strong language and sexual material throughout .

Starring James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Keegan-Michael Key, Cedric the Entertainer, Kaley Cuoco (voice), Zack Pearlman, Steve Aoki, Casey Wilson, Andrew Rannells, Adam DeVine, Tangie Ambrose, Steve Bannos.

Written by John Hamburg, Ian Helfer and Jonah Hill.

Directed by John Hamburg.



One yearly holiday tradition is the release of “the” Christmas movie; a film intended for families to enjoy together and add to their expanding traditional Yuletide video collection. Some films have staying power, like (several adaptations of) Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, The Santa Clause and, of course, Elf.  Over past decade, there seems to be at least one “dysfunctional family” Christmas movie, but they all seem to blend together into stew of forgettable drivel. Other Christmas films are not family friendly, like Bad Santa, Silent Night-Deadly Night, Die Hard I & II, and the recent release of Office Christmas Party. The latest “naughty” Christmas movie is brought to you by the same guys behind the Meet the Parents/Fockers franchise and a string of vulgar films like Super Bad, Pineapple Express, and Your Highness (Director John Hamburg, co-writer Jonah Hill and lead actor James Franco). I mention these films because they are all irreverent comedies, and some of them are really terrible. Hill and Franco have been involved in some fine films, but they can’t seem to stay away from movies that involve a lot of cursing, drugs, sex and silly sight gags. They are the team behind like Why Him?, released just in time for Christmas.

Bryan Cranston plays Ned Fleming, the owner of a small Midwest printing business. When Ned, his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) take a Christmas trip to the California bay area to spend the holiday with his daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), they prepare to meet her eccentric boyfriend Laird (Franco). When they arrive, they discover that Laird is an Internet billionaire, living in an expansive luxury compound, complete with live-in servants and a host of interns who develop his online products. Needless to say, Ned’s conservative ways and Laird’s free-spirited vulgarity clash immediately, and tensions rise throughout the holiday gathering. The situation comes to a head when Laird asks for Stephanie’s hand in marriage and Ned refuses. Both men draw battle lines until the entire holiday is ruined by their stubbornness, and the young couple’s relationship is seemingly ruined beyond repair. Laird and Ned must put aside their differences of they are to have any future in Stephanie’s life.

Why Him? has a few gags that work, but none that make it stand out among other racy comedies. It’s a film without a filter (much like Laird’s character), rendering it dependent on the lowest, most cringe-worthy moments for laughs. There are so many movies like this from the Hill/Franco/Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow/Danny McBride cabal of sleezemasters that there aren’t any more raunchy sharks to jump. When you push the proverbial “envelope” too far, you run out of curse words and phallic euphemisms to shock people. I have always believed that cursing in films works much better in moderation, or the audience becomes desensitized to its effect. Bryan Cranston is probably the film’s only saving grace, since he’s allowed to get back to the comedic flair he had during his years on Malcolm in the Middle. Everyone else is adequately funny, but the script and story doesn’t give them much to work with.

Why Him? is a film title in the form of a question, and you should question whether you want to waste a few holiday hours and hard-earned cash seeing yet another nasty holiday movie that you won’t remember by the time Christmas 2017 rolls around.

Why, indeed.

Why Him? Trailer