By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Why Him?, the new movie by writer/director John Hamburg (I Love You, Man, Along Came Polly) takes an overused plot of boyfriend versus girlfriend’s father and hopes to reinvigorate it with wild, zany, and over-the-top humor. The film does have a talented cast, but Hamburg and co-writer Jonah Hill’s over-reliance on outrageous comedy and the overuse of James Franco’s character does nothing to breathe life into the tired plot. Instead of providing amusement and entertainment, it actually is more successful in offering annoyance and frustration. The people who greenlit this movie deserve to be asked, “Why this movie?”
Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and their son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) plan to visit eldest child Stephanie (Zoe Deutch) for the holidays at the home of her new boyfriend Laird Mayhew (Franco). Mayhew is an eccentric, Silicon Valley billionaire known for his hard partying life style and womanizing. Ned instantly takes a disliking to Laird who often speaks with no filter and often goes too far and tries to hard to impress them. Believing Laird cannot be trusted, Ned feels that the unusual boyfriend is all wrong for his daughter and has no idea what his daughter sees in him. Much to Ned’s dismay, Laird plans to propose to Stephanie and wants to prove himself worthy to Ned and Barb. Ned reluctantly agrees to offer his blessing if Laird succeeds, but secretly plans to make sure those efforts fail.
To be completely fair, I did manage to laugh during some of the scenes, but these are mostly at the beginning of the film. The problem I had was that the majority of the comedy rests on the shoulders of Franco, and the gags involving his character get repeated too much. His unfiltered, over-the top personality grows tiresome and annoying after a while. Bryan Cranston does a decent straight character to play off of Franco’s silliness, but the range is limited. Cranston’s talents, as a result, get underused. It would have been nice to see him do something a bit silly and off-color for a little more variety. Cranston, who is now best known for his dramatic roles, actually first became famous for comedic roles in Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle. He is obviously capable, but never gets the chance here.
Other wonderful comedic talents in the film are Cedric the Entertainer and Megan Mullally who has one amusing scene, but, otherwise they also jave very little to do in the film. Actor Keegan Michael Key does have a few amusing scenes, but his schtick eventually wears thin. Zoe Deutch offers a solid performance, but the development of her character is not all that interesting. So much talent gets assembled for this movie, only for it all to be wasted.
With all of the great movies currently playing and with other great ones opening for the holidays, I would not waste any time or money on this film during the holidays. A tired plot and mostly failed attempts at ludicrous humor cannot be saved by talented actors alone. After watching this movie, it makes me wonder what really attracted such talent to make it. They, too, need to be asked, “Why this movie?”