By Christian DiMartino
The question isn’t “why him?” The question is: why any of them?
If you go to the movies as much as I do, you’ll notice that sometimes they tend to show the same trailer for a particular movie every time you go. Take Passengers for example. They played the hell out of that trailer. But I have a theory: maybe, just maybe, they’re really trying to sell these movies because… they suck.
I saw the trailer for Why Him? so many times, I could probably recite the damn thing. I never rooted for it to be bad, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that, well, despite the casting of James Franco and Bryan Cranston, this thing wasn’t going to work. So, going into Why Him?, I wasn’t rooting for it to suck. I just knew. To paraphrase Taylor Swift, I knew it was trouble when I walked in, so…
Shame on me.
Why Him? really is something of a shame though, if I’m being honest. Because it actually elicited a few moments of genuine laughter. But yet the funniest moments in Why Him? are the smaller ones. But that’s the thing: the majority of the gags here are huge and bombastic.
For every funny moment in Why Him?, there are maybe three moments of pure, wrong, awfulness. I don’t mind a comedy that isn’t afraid to take risks, but sometimes, are the risks worth taking? Take, for example, a scene in which Cranston’s character is trapped under a desk while his daughter (Zooey Deutch) and her lover (Franco) begin hanky panky. Not only are moments like this cliché and unoriginal, worst of all… it’s not particularly funny.
Why Him? feels like the odd offspring of Meet the Parents and What About Bob?, but yet it isn’t nearly as funny as either of them. In fact, this film is directed by John Hamburg, who wrote Meet the Parents, and at times, he seems to be ripping himself off. Familiarity is a helluva pain.
Cranston plays Ned Fleming, an old-fashioned and somewhat uptight businessman who runs some sort of printing company in Michigan. When he discovers that his daughter, Stephanie (Deutch) has a new boyfriend, Ned, his wife (Megan Mullally, probably the funniest one in the room) and their son (Griffin Gluck) set off to meet this “mystery man.”
Said mystery man is actually some sort of Silicon Valley millionaire named Laird (Franco), a foul-mouthed and somewhat insane weirdo who sets out to win them over, but only really rubs them the wrong way, ala installing a bowling alley and getting their Christmas card tattooed on his back. Franco is certainly game, but in some cases, he’s too game.
So when Laird tells Ned that he plans to propose, let’s just say Ned doesn’t take it well. Soon, Laird sets out to further impress them, and in doing so, more than charms the family over while also further infuriating Ned.
It would take a lot to make a film like Why Him? boring. Boredom isn’t the problem here. But rather, there were many instances where I considered going to the bathroom and slashing my wrists. Trouble was, I didn’t have a sharp weapon with me. The film has its moments. Keegan Michael Key and Mullally usually keep things lively (though there is an intimate scene between Mullally and Cranston that falls horribly flat).
But the good scenes are more than overshadowed by the terrible ones. In fact, as I watched Why Him?, there were many times where I kept wondering just how anyone could have written this into a script, thinking its funny. There are long stretches here where my face was left completely blank, and there’s a last minute cameo by Kiss that not only feels out of place, but also rings extremely false.
A lot rings false in Why Him?, but the film is at its worst when it tries as hard as Laird does. The scenes in which… well, any scene with Gluck is pretty much terrible. And when you see a giant, dead moose in a tank filled with urine… well I just wrote that sentence so I’m sure you know how that turns out.