tv + film by Philbert Dy

Little is Gained in Trying to Answer the Question: ‘Why him?’

Even Bryan Cranston and James Franco combined can’t save this movie.

NBHD movie 2 ticketsWhy Him? is about Ned (Bryan Cranston), who owns a struggling printing business in Michigan. On his 55th birthday, it is accidentally revealed that his daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) has a boyfriend. Ned and his family go out to California to meet and spend time with Laird (James Franco), the eccentric tech mogul that Stephanie is seeing. Laird intends to win Ned over, and hopes to get his blessing to marry Stephanie. Ned just finds him plain weird, and is resistant to his strange charms. He panics as he watches his family be influenced by the younger man, and takes drastic steps to try and fix things.Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 2.20.48 PMIt is basically an inversion of Meet the Parents, with the younger generation getting a turn at making people uncomfortable. Franco is basically the opposite of De Niro’s regimented hardass: a free spirit comfortable with technology and really open with his feelings. It is probably a worth noting that this movie is actually directed by John Hamburg, who was behind Meet the Parents and its sequel. So it isn’t really a knockoff so much as it is a retread. The film has its funny moments, but as a whole it feels chintzy and uninspired.There isn’t much in this movie that might surprise audience. It works within a very safe, familiar mold, building an odd pairing and letting them bounce off each other. The two are united in their affection for Stephanie, but the young woman never really factors much into this story. Like so many female characters in comedies like this, Stephanie doesn’t get much of a chance to assert herself into the narrative. She is just there to eventually be the source of guilt that makes these increasingly unreasonable man-children decide that they should just do the decent thing and get along. And that’s all this is, in the end: two guys made to realize that Stephanie might have something to say about her own situation.Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 2.21.37 PM

It gets pretty condescending by the end, the movie delivering a trite lesson that is already self-evident to any normal person. But this story is built on illogical bad behavior; the movie pushing for laughs drawn from its two male leads being caught in dumb situations. There are a bunch of lame comedic set pieces that mainly build to a crescendo of cringe, the movie defaulting to broad discomfort when it can’t come up with a punch line. And on the way, the characters reveal themselves to be terrible people at heart, going to ridiculous lengths in order to achieve dubious goals.Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 2.25.14 PM

John Hamburg’s direction is tepid at best. The movie basically lives on reaction shots, the director relying heavily on the expressiveness of actors to sell the moments. The camerawork and the editing do very little to help the comedy along. An embarrassment of comedic riches in the cast tempers the laziness of this decision a bit. Bryan Cranston probably deserves than what this film is giving him, but he commits to every last humiliation. James Franco is perfectly odd in this film, though his natural charms make one question the very premise of this movie. Zoey Deutch is a compelling presence on screen, but this film keeps shunting her off to the side, giving her little chance to really show off what she’s got.Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 2.23.36 PM Why Him? has funny moments, but they aren’t enough to make the whole project worth it. It still feels like a retread, and it still feels like its ideas come from twenty years ago. For all of its depiction of life in an Internet age, for every scene that involves people talking about apps and games and the Internet, the whole thing still comes off feeling an old men trying to make fun of things that they don’t really understand. And when all is said and done, the movie delivers a lesson that shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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