Director: John Hamburg
Screenwriter: John Hamburg, Ian Helfer
Cast: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch
Runtime: 114 mins
Review by Dave Griffiths
Over the past few years, we have found that studios have decided to release Christmas related adult comedies during the holiday period instead of films resembling those family classics that we grew up watching. So seem to work, but like a lot of adult comedy some fail pretty badly as well. So far this year we’ve already seen the release of Office Christmas Party, which worked to a certain extent, now we find ourselves watching Why Him? which came originally from the mind of Jonah Hill.
Why Him? tells a pretty simple story. Daughter meets guy, Dad doesn’t like the guy and will do anything to prevent them from getting here married. Here the Dad is Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad) who during a Skype birthday greeting with his beloved daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch – Vampire Academy), learns in a rather X-Rated way that she now has a serious boyfriend.
Ina bid to smooth things over Stephanie invites her Dad, her Mum Barb (Megan Mullally – Will & Grace) and her little brother, Scotty (Griffin Gluck – Just Go With It) to fly out to California to spend Christmas with her and to also meet her boyfriend. Much to Ned’s surprise that boyfriend just happens to be, Laird Mayhew (James Franco – 127 Hours), an uncouth, swears-like-a-sailor, millionaire video game developer. To Ned’s horror, one of the first questions that Laird asks him is if he can have his blessing to marry Stephanie. When Ned says, no Laird says he will spend the entire Christmas period trying to convince him otherwise.
There are going to be a lot of people out there that flat our decide that they don’t like Why Him? For some reason it seems like every film critic is supposed to hate adult comedies – well it’s time to make a stand. Yes, I’m a film critic, but yes I also laughed at lot during Why Him? To be perfectly honest I didn’t laugh as much as I did during films like Bridesmaids or Horrible Bosses but I laughed more than enough to give this film a pass mark.
Going into this film, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Screenwriter/director Scott Hamburg has had a mixed career when it comes to the films that he has made. There was the absolute low earlier this year with Zoolander 2, but he’s had some comedy hits on his hands over the years as well – films such as Meet The Parents, etc. For the most part, though he is on song with Why Him? There seem to be laughs in all the right places, a surprising cameo from a classic rock band and for once a comedy writer seems to have remembered that characterisation is something that should never be forgotten in the screenplay.
It’s a big surprise, but yes Hamburg has created some pretty well-rounded characters here. It would have been easy for him to have made Laird just your goofy, idiot – the kind of character that Ashton Kutcher would have been at home playing. But instead Hamburg makes him an interesting character – on the one hand he is a kind guy that obviously loves Stephanie a lot but on the other hand he’s the kind of idiot that can’t stop saying ‘mother f**kers’, talking about his sex life in front of his potential parents-in-law and gets a teenager to say ‘dicking.’ As an audience sometimes you find yourself rooting for Laird and other times you hope he meets a violent death. Even smaller characters here get a fair dose of characterisation though including the younger brother, Scotty whose ignored ambitions Hamburg uses to show that Ned is also the kind of man who will turn his back on change.
The role brings out the best of the comedy side of James Franco. In fact, it reveals that he is becoming a well-rounded actor that people really need to take notice of. We saw his dramatic acting style in 127 Hours, and here Franco once again reminds us that he is more than capable of making an audience laugh, whether that be with good comedy dialogue or slapstick humour. Franco’s performance is made even better as he matches the wit of seasoned veteran Bryan Cranston. While many people know Cranston’s from his Breaking Bad role many forget that before that his biggest role was actually in comedy – that as the father in the hit series Malcolm In The Middle. Sadly for Zoey Deutch who possibly wanted this film to show the world that she can perform in comedy as well the two leading men here pretty much steal every scene they are throughout the film.
Why Him? certainly isn’t the funniest film to surface this year but it also doesn’t deserve to be slaughtered the way some critics have over the past few days. This really is a run-of-a-mill comedy that will provide a laugh along the way even you don’t mind some crasser humour.
Why Him? opens in cinemas on Boxing Day.
3 out of 5 stars.