The premise for the new film Why Him? is not exactly new, pitting a skeptical and concerned dad against his daughter’s new boyfriend, so for this sort of thing it’s all in the execution. In this case co-writer and director John Hamburg mostly is right on target. As I say in my video review above, Why Him? is relentless in its pursuit of laughs and gets them at a rapid pace, particularly in the movie’s first half which has some bits, including one involving Bryan Cranston, a new age toilet and Keegan-Michael Key that is an instant classic comic creation.
In the film — which follows Bad Santa 2 and Office Christmas Party in this season’s trend toward very R-rated holiday-themed flicks — James Franco plays Laird, the quirky and unconventional billionaire Internet mogul boyfriend of Ned’s daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), who has been away at college when her family turns up for a visit during the Christmas holidays. Ned (Cranston), wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and younger brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) arrive at the palatial and very modern mansion belonging to Laird, who seems to be overachieving in his desire to be liked by the family, even going to the extreme of having their Christmas card photo tattooed on his back. Laird is a loose cannon and live wire with whom Ned has an instant mistrust and disdain for. Barb wants him to just give it a chance and keep the peace, while Scotty is enamored with the guy. It’s not totally clear what the mutual attraction is between Stephanie and Laird, but clearly a part of it is their overt sexual chemistry, providing more fodder for Ned, who has issues when he finds out Stephanie plans to marry Laird.
Most of the film’s action takes place at Laird’s place, so it is natural that a movie with this level of huge laughs and comic set pieces runs low on gas at a certain point. Why Him? occasionally succumbs to the temptation to go over the top at points and even drags a bit in some places, but it all recovers nicely before it is over. What really makes it soar is smart casting: Cranston a true master of the slow burn, and Franco is funnier that he’s ever been, even in the Seth Rogen comedies, and just as raunchy. Mullally is truly funny, playing off Cranston beautifully, especially in a killer bedroom scene where all the sexual tension in the house leads her to try and light hubby’s fading flame. Key is perfect as Laird’s right-hand man and displays A-plus comic timing, particularly in that toilet scene that is one for the ages.
It should be no surprise Hamburg is involved, as he also wrote the scripts for Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, so this is right in his wheelhouse. Hamburg and Ian Helfer penned the script, for which Jonah Hill also shares a story credit for coming up with the premise. Producers are Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Stuart Cornfeld and Ben Stiller, the latter having made several movies written by Hamburg including all the Fockers films, both Zoolander pics and Along Came Polly. 20th Century Fox releases Why Him? on Friday, and I can safely say it is a real holiday gift for fans of broad, go-for-it comedies. It’s easily one of the year’s funniest movies.
Do you plan to see Why Him? Let us know what you think.
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