John Hamburg is the definition of a hit-and-miss filmmaker. On one hand, he co-wrote Meet the Parents and Zoolander. On the other hand, he co-wrote Little Fockers and Zoolander 2. As for his directorial outings, I Love You, Man was actually a lot of fun, but Along Came Polly was below average at best. Why Him? is another comedy from Hamburg that often veers towards the middle of the road. However, the film does have a few saving graces, particularly its two stars. They breathe life into an otherwise routine comedy that delivers exactly what’d you expect.
Why Him? is another comedy from Hamburg that often veers towards the middle of the road.
Bryan Cranston returns to his sitcom roots as Ned Fleming, a loving husband and father. Zoey Deutch from Everybody Wants Some!! plays his daughter Stephanie, a college student with a bright future. Ned becomes increasingly concerned upon discovering his baby girl is dating somebody. Along with his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and teenage son Scott (Griffin Gluck), Ned travels to California for Christmas to meet Stephanie’s boyfriend Laird (James Franco). On the plus side, it turns out that Laird is a multi-millionaire with a mansion full of shiny toys. The downside is that he’s foulmouthed, riddled with tattoos, and has zero boundaries.
So yeah… you can pretty much tell everything that’s going to happen from that description. Ned and Laird aren’t going to get along, amounting too all sorts of misunderstands and shenanigans. Yada, yada, yada, they reconcile in the end. This is nothing new and the fact that Hamburg worked on the Meet the Parents trilogy makes this all the more evident. The formula isn’t inherently bad, though. It’s perfectly acceptable as long as we get enough laughs throughout. While the screenplay here can feel tired at times, the cast manages to elevate the material.
While the screenplay here can feel tired at times, the cast manages to elevate the material.
Cranston finds a strong balance of being stern and overbearing while also being warm and affectionate. Franco is perfectly cast as a hipster doofus that means well, but lacks any social skills. Meanwhile, Keegan-Michael Key steals every scene he’s in as Laird’s butler, who ends up having a great deal in common with Cato from the Pink Panther movies. Kaley Cuoco also gives the best big screen performance of her career as an operating system with all the pluck of Penny from The Big Bang Theory. You can tell that these actors are giving it their all even when a scene falls flat. With that said, there are quite a few scenes that don’t quit work.
The film has a lot of potentially funny setups, such as when Ned’s wife accidentally gets high or when the guys decide to steal a Christmas tree. However, those scenes just don’t really go anywhere. For every moment that disappoints, though, there is a humorous scene waiting around the corner. The highlights include a mishap with a Japanese toilet and a cameo from a certain heavy metal band. As far as recent holiday movies go, Why Him? has more laughs than Almost Christmas and more heart than Bad Santa 2. It might not be much, but there are just enough clever visual gags and one-liners to appease mainstream audiences.