Why Him? The real question is why me? Why am I always searching for the seemingly most elusive item on Earth, not a holy grail or world peace, but a decently funny comedy that can a) make me laugh consistently and, b) not devolve into a juvenile series of f-words, toilet humor and disgusting situations.
Is THAT too much to ask, especially during the Holiday season . . .?
Well, with such low-brow fare as “Masterminds,” “Office Christmas Party” and “Sausage Party” as recent mostly humorless entries into the 2016 film lexicon, this father vs. prospective son-in-law effort directed by John Hamburg (“I Love You, Man”) fits well below such productions as “Meet the Parents” and even “Guess Who,” among many others. In fact, it’s so devoid of regular laughs, that of the two Christmas Eve screenings this reporter saw, including “Fences,” this was easily the more depressing film.
Yes, I snickered more at Denzel Washington’s drunken violent, abusive father than this lame attempt to be funny.
Why? Well, I cannot tell just what was the worst part of this whole enterprise: Was it James Franco’s (“The Night Before” and an Academy Award nominee for “127 Hours”) pasty naked butt or ridiculously tattooed body; or was it a brother and sister’s inappropriate action on the dance floor; or was it Keegan-Michael Key’s (“Keanu”) ludicrous hairstyle and German accent; or was it a scene actually showing a 15-year old boy getting drunk, being shown sex acts on a cell phone video or having a moose’s testicles in his face; or was it a half-baked Megan Mullally (who looks more like Tina Fey than Tina Fey, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”) gyrating on a bed in a most nauseating manner; or was it Bryan Cranston (who was funnier in “The Infiltrator” and “Breaking Bad” TV series) getting soaked with dead moose urine — yes, that’s what I wrote — or watching his daughter have sex with Franco, or getting stuck on a toilet in a house where paper products are forbidden; or was it Cranston biting Franco’s crouch? It was all so terrible, I just cannot decide which moment was the single most horrid.
True, there were about three or four good laughs, but with a running time of almost two hours, that nowhere near compensates one for their loss of time and hard-earned money.
Anyway, the plot of Why Him? has Stephanie Fleming (Lea Thompson’s daughter, Zoey Deutch, “Vampire Academy”) introducing her free-swinging boyfriend, Laird Mayhew (Franco) to her uptight parents, Ned (Cranston) and Barb (Mullally), and her younger brother, Scott (Griffin Gluck, “Just Go with It”).
Free-swinging may be just an understatement here. It seems Laird has absolutely no filter: He hugs, grabs, kisses, fondles and uses so many F-words that the writers of “Straight Outta Compton” would be offended. He is also (welcome to Hollywood) a fabulously wealthy video game mogul who lives in a huge mansion (“Is this an Apple store,” one of the characters intones), has his own zoo and has paintings of various animals having intercourse on the walls. Dad and daughter have always been close, so Ned cannot understand how she could fall for this idiot (and neither can the audience, except for the fact that Laird is incredibly rich), so he tells the boyfriend he will never give his permission for the marriage. Meanwhile, Laird says he WILL win her hand before the holidays are over, even throwing a “Merry F**king Christmas” party (which is almost as depressing as the ones in “Office Christmas Party” AND “The Night Before”).
Why Him? also features a subplot of Ned’s printing business being in trouble and his attempts to hack into Laird’s personal finances. Hamburg leaves us guessing for a few minutes, but we soon realize the futility of such a waste of energy and move on to more stimulating activities such as eating a Hot Pocket or staring into space.
It’s embarrassing to see such an accomplished actor as Cranston, who cut his early teeth on comedy (as the father in the FOX series “Malcolm in the Middle” and was nominated for an Oscar last year for “Trumbo”), wasted in this trivial pursuit of a few cheap giggles. Franco, too, has had a few genuinely funny roles, as well (including “Pineapple Express” and “This Is the End”), but is reduced to a stoned one-note simpleton. The rest of the cast is just too bad to be believed most of the time.
I admit I do not have much to give the readers this Yule season, but I can try and persuade as many people as possible NOT to see this drivel. It’s the least I can do. A Merry F**kin’ Christmas, indeed.