Why Him?

When an “out of touch” Midwesterner owner of a paper factory (Bryan Cranston) decides to take his family to California to spend Christmas with his college student daughter (Zoey Deutch) and meet her new tech-millionaire, but socially inept boyfriend (James Franco), a typical father vs boyfriend faceoff ensues. For many, Why Him? will be enough to satisfy the comedy itch. Those expecting to find the next gut busting comedy will be disappointed, while those thinking it will be a dull comedy will be pleasantly surprised. This film is somewhere in the middle. A constant stream of chuckles with a few bigger laughs here or there. But ultimately forgettable at the lack of main characters to root for.

The highlights of this film include Cranston who reminds us that he has comedic timing from his years in Malcom in the Middle. His chemistry and timing is played well across Megan Mullally who perfectly delivers a few genuine laughs as a Midwestern suburban wife trying to maintain the niceties. Their son (Griffin Gluck) also adds to the humorous family affair as a teenage brother trying to be taken seriously as an adult but still being treated as a child. Lastly, the always funny Keegan-Michael Key hilariously plays Gustav, the “estate manager” to the tech-millionaire boyfriend and spices up the film every time he seems to appear.

James Franco on the other hand quickly wears out is welcome as the socially inept tech-millionaire boyfriend. At times he is funny, however after the dropping the “f-bomb” so many times you begin to sees him as a basic, depthless “caricature” only going for the low hanging fruit of crude jokes. Still, his crude, repeated, jokes are no longer funny after the first few times we see them. The film tries to give Franco some “mysterious depth” through an eluded troubled childhood and his genuine honesty. Only the film never gives you any payoff, as Franco’s character never actually evolves past his caricature shortcomings. It is a shame, because we actually like the girlfriend character (Zoey Deutch) and want to understand what she sees in Franco’s character, however since he never really evolves, there really is no reason to like or root for them to be together.

I also want to point out that this film acknowledges its biggest flaw. At one point in the film a character points out that there is a war going on between father and boyfriend, only the boyfriend isn’t actually fighting. That’s true, and thus there is no real conflict and no real reason to root for any of the characters. Franco’s boyfriend character never evolves past his caricature. While Cranston’s father character only evolves because the movie devolves into “paint by numbers” territory in the last 10 minutes. Since there is no one to root, we do not really care the outcome as we got our chuckles throughout the film but will forget about it shortly after walking out the theater.

Why Him? Has a solid cast, a few unexpected cameos and delivers constant chuckles throughout, however without giving us a likeable boyfriend or any characters to root for, the lack of memorable gut busting laughs has this film as nothing more than a typical forgettable comedy.


2 1/2 stars out of 5