The name of the new film starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco is “Why Him?” A better question is “Why us?” What horrific thing did members of the moviegoing public do to deserve such an unimaginative, excruciatingly vile and worthless comedy?
Too subtle? How’s this? This movie should be shown to people who have swallowed poison to induce vomiting.
The film uses the ancient plotline of a parent’s dilemma when their offspring has picked a potential partner who doesn’t fit their standards. James Franco has that role as tech millionaire Laird Mayhew. He’s fallen for Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), the serious-minded daughter of Ned (Cranston) and Barb (Megan Mullally).
The first meeting of all the parties is at Mayhew’s mansion. The millionaire is a free spirit who when not spouting an endless string of profanity, is making sexual advances at Stephanie and her mom. His plan is to impress Ned, but everything he does is horrendous, agonizing and irritating to Ned.
At least Ned and the audience have one thing in common.
The only way you will not be able to predict where this story is going is if you have never seen a movie or TV comedy. Every step – from the embarrassing effort to garner laughs from a toilet joke to predictable ending – has been done before. And, done far better.
“Why Him?” is the kind of film where critical analysis often gets dismissed as taking the film too seriously. Putting aside that a steady barrage of profanity and endless sexual discussions leaps from funny to redundant quickly, the movie fails miserably when it comes to originality. The script by director John Hamburg and Ian Helfer (with input from Jonah Hill) is an endless string of comedy bits that have been used in countless other movies.
How many times has there been a scene where a parent or spouse gets caught in a room where they have to listen to someone close to them having sex? Is there anyone who can look at a vat filled with moose urine and not expect someone to get submerged?
And when material from other projects can’t be copied, the film takes illogical turns to keep the story going. Cranston’s character is the upright, straight shooter in this mix. Yet, he doesn’t hesitate committing vandalism with a chainsaw with little prodding.
Then there’s the family’s youngest son, Scotty (Griffin Gluck). It’s bad enough he has no qualms spouting language in front of his mother that goes beyond profane. No one seems to care when he’s drinking without abandon at a party.
There are clues that even the writers knew this film was in trouble. There are several lackluster attempts to use some psychobabble to explain why Stephanie would fall for someone so different than her. It would have been smarter just to say there’s no way of predicting who a person will love. Instead, Stephanie explains that she fell for Mayhew because he’s so much like her father. It’s just bad writing heaped on miserable writing.
The only tiny saving grace is Keegan-Michael Key’s character of Gustav. As the estate manager he’s an expert in martial arts, architecture, finance and personal relationships. He provides the only slightly amusing moments in this mess.
Key’s work is a tiny blip in a film that is so devoid of originality you could cut 110 minutes from the running time of 111 minutes and still not have a product that generates one original laugh-provoking idea. This holiday movie would have to improve 1,000 fold to reach the level of merely being awful.
Cast: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key.
Director: John Hamburg
Rating: R (language, sexual material, nudity)
Opens: Friday, Dec. 23