John Hamburg’s Why Him? borrows a bit from the Meet the Parents formula and no wonder because it was Hamburg who wrote that picture. He also cowrote that blockbuster’s two sequels, which dwindled in quality with each entry. Him? keeps the downward spiral going. That’s a shame because Mr. Hamburg’s two previous efforts behind the camera, Along Came Polly and I Love You, Man, were both pretty decent. This one never finds its rhythm.
Bryan Cranston is middle class Michigan man Ned Fleming, who travels with his wife (Megan Mullaly) and teenage son (Griffin Gluck) to visit college age daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) over the Christmas holiday. She’s got a new serious boyfriend in the form of Laird Mayhew (James Franco). He’s a super eccentric and ultra foul-mouthed tech gazillionaire with attachment issues. Naturally (and totally understandably), Ned doesn’t approve of the situation.
Why Him? is a cartoon with a hard R rating. There’s drug humor, toilet gags, and lots of sex talk. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before save for a gag involving a moose encased in urine (first time writing that sentence!). Franco is a performer that can be solid and also grating and the latter applies here. Cranston is a fantastic actor saddled with the straight man role. Part of the problem is I think we’re supposed to sympathize with Laird, but he’s such a bizarrely creepy dude that we never really do. The rare laughs come from supporting players. Keegan-Michael Key has a moment or two as Laird’s sidekick, as does Kaley Cuoco doing voiceover work as a Siri like assistant who watches all.
Overall, however, this is just a substandard example of a storyline we’ve seen done better… and from the same guy no less.
*1/2 (out of four)