John Hamburg's Why Him? isn't the most memorable R-rated comedy to hit screens this year, but both James Franco and Bryan Cranston's likable characters and general on-screen chemistry keeps this one afloat, despite a predictable and fairly safe script.
John Hamburg‘s Why Him? is the latest R-rated comedy to hit the screens come this Christmas. Why Him? isn’t exactly Hamburg’s most memorable film, nor is it James Franco or even Bryan Cranston‘s, but it’s still a fun film that gets by on its performances and on-screen chemistry and shenanigans between its two leads.
Why Him? follows Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch) as she brings her parents home (played by Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally) to meet her boyfriend Laird for the very first time, played with an eccentric free-spirit personality by the usually lovable James Franco.
This is your typical father meets possible soon-to-be son-in-law for the first time and generally dislikes every single aspect about him, which means that the next few days are all about awkward situations and getting to know everyone for who they really are and not just who they appear to be on the outside.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that Why Him? is bursting with originality or that it’s the cleverest comedy to hit the screens this year, but I can say that it’s a mostly enjoyable R-rated trip down raunchy and inappropriate.
I can see older families seeing this one in theaters together and everyone finding something to laugh at or comment on, from the younger generation’s obsession with cursing and technology, to the older generation’s focus on a more “traditional” lifestyle and presentation.
The script was penned by Jonah Hill, Ian Helfer and John Hamburg and it definitely feels like a film full of a wide variety of gags and ideas sort of mashed together in hopes of sticking.
Some of it works and some of it is just plain-old stupid, but that’s the nature of the beast with this kind of film.
Most of the film’s laughs will (no surprise) come from James Franco and Bryan Cranston‘s interactions or more so Franco’s interactions with any member of Steph’s family.
I find this version of Franco to be adorably idiotic, meaning that he won’t exactly win you over instantly with his charms, but his character’s honestly good intentions will leave a mark that makes his silly antics somewhat acceptable or even understood.
Franco is such a goof and it’s occasionally fun watching him get to play such a bizarre and over-the-top role with such a big heart. I’m not saying that his taste in humor is perfection or even worthy of this much screen time, but I’d be lying if I said I disliked his character completely.
Opposite of Franco is Bryan Cranston mostly playing a straight-faced dad that’s mostly straight-faced funny. Most of his humor comes from the result of interacting with Franco, which isn’t to say that Cranston isn’t funny, but he’s not exactly written to be funny or even all that interesting.
And that’s where Why Him? sort of loses itself. None of the characters are written too deep, despite most of the film relying on Franco’s ability to convince them that he’s a worthy guy to possibly marry Steph.
Steph herself is played with very little range by Zoey Deutch. I don’t blame Deutch as much as I blame the writers for lacking any sort of focus on her character, aside from a few brief spots.
But that’s okay, because Why Him? is mostly a Franco feature and if viewed as that it functions just fine, living up to the “expectations” left from the trailers.
There’s no real breakout performances to admire or general filmmaking to awe over.
Director John Hamburg has made better, but he’s also made much worse, which leaves Why Him? as sort of the middle ground that works mostly as a point-and-shoot comedy in terms of judging a director on his merits as a filmmaker.
The story isn’t much better either, but it works as a serviced source of R-rated entertainment over this Holiday season.
I doubt many will be disappointed with this one, but I also doubt that many will be talking about it come next Holiday season.