Why Him?

Why Him?

2016, R, 111 min. Directed by John Hamburg. Starring Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key, Griffin Gluck, Cedric the Entertainer, Zack Pearlman, Adam Devine, Casey Wilson, Andrew Rannells.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 23, 2016

Have we reached the James Franco tipping point, the moment when the mere mention of the ubiquitous multi-hyphenate’s name induces a collective grinding of the teeth? Not yet, but we may be getting close. In the naughty-but-nice holiday comedy Why Him?, Franco’s well-meaning but maladroit Silicon Valley tech mogul Laird Mayhew blunders through the film with the grace of a DOS operating system. Tatted up like a sk8er boi and frequently shirtless, this profanity-spouting bro is doomed to make the wrong impression (despite good intentions) on the strait-laced parents (Cranston and Mullally) of his more grounded girlfriend (Deutch), a far younger college junior he wishes to marry, much to her overprotective father’s horror. Franco has made a career out of playing characters similar to this genial Gen-X vulgarian (Pineapple Express, Spring Breakers, The Interview), but the gig is wearing thinner with each progressively cartoonish performance. When he’s in this mode, he’s like a big puppy dog, all too eager to please, even when the character is a dangerous dude. No doubt, these paychecks allow this fearless jack-of-all-trades to engage in a seemingly endless variety of other and arguably more worthy projects (does the guy ever sleep?), but he needs to ask himself at some point: at what price?

Luckily for Franco, Cranston makes for the perfect comic foil in Why Him?. That craggy, lived-in face can launch a thousand laughs with a simple squint of the eye, cock of the brow, or clinch of the jaw. (He has the gift of Spencer Tracy – the ability to do so much by doing so little.) Watching this film, you’re reminded of Cranston’s befuddled dad on Malcolm in the Middle, before he morphed into the murderous Walter White. In their scenes together, Cranston inspires Franco to take it up a notch, and the results are enjoyable. The raunch factor in Why Him? is relatively low compared to other R-rated comedies these days, with the emphasis focused more on family dynamics and, yes, romantic love. A scene involving Cranston attempting to negotiate the mechanics of a high-tech automated Japanese toilet, however, provides some requisite crude humor, with Mullally similarly following suit later. And for all the potty mouths, there are plenty of nasty internet porn-site expressions played for laughs, words like “double dicking,” “bukkake,” and “motorboating.” Needless to say, you won’t find those in your Funk & Wagnalls. Try Urban Dictionary instead.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More John Hamburg Films
I Love You, Man
Paul Rudd stars in this "bromance" comedy in which sweet scenes of male camaraderie contrast with moments of gross-out humor.

Josh Rosenblatt, March 20, 2009

Along Came Polly
Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston date and become more than just friends.

Marc Savlov, Jan. 16, 2004

More by Steve Davis
Freud's Last Session
Fictional meeting between Freud and CS Lewis makes no breakthrough

Jan. 19, 2024

Joan Baez I Am a Noise
The public, private, and secret lives of the folk icon

Dec. 29, 2023


Why Him?, John Hamburg, Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key, Griffin Gluck, Cedric the Entertainer, Zack Pearlman, Adam Devine, Casey Wilson, Andrew Rannells

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle