By Michael Kaye
Why Him? (Review)
We're closing in on the end of 2016, and boy what a crazy year in film we've had. It seems like every major genre has had a number of moderate successes, particularly horror and comedy, two of the hardest genres to get 100% right. And of course I'm not suggesting that EVERY comedy this year has been a hit, but the ones that were hit bullseyes. Today's film has quite the all-star cast, with Bryan Cranston and James Franco teaming up for the Christmas themed comedy, Why Him?
Here's the story. During the holidays, loving but overprotective Ned travels to California to visit his daughter Stephanie at Stanford University. While there, he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward boyfriend Laird. Even though Laird is a billionaire, Ned disapproves of his freewheeling attitude and unfiltered language. His panic level escalates even further when he learns that Laird plans to ask for Stephanie's hand in marriage.
I'll be honest, after glancing at some of the early reviews, I went into this movie with lowered expectations, but came out really enjoying what I saw. Out of all the Christmas comedies that I saw this year (Bad Santa 2, Office Christmas Party), Why Him? was definitely the funniest. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, I have to talk about the cast. More people are familiar with Bryan Cranston's dramatic performances, specifically his breakout role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, but before that he was better known for his work in comedy. And it feels so good to see him return to that genre, and with some of the funniest comedians working today. James Franco looks like he's having the time of his life playing the eccentric Silicon Valley millionaire Laird, and his chemistry with Keegan-Michael Key's Gustav is fantastic. I was very impressed with Zoey Deutch as Stephanie Fleming, but the two scene stealers were Megan Mullally as Ned's wife Barb, and Griffin Gluck as Scotty, Ned's son and future head of the family business.
This movie was written and directed by John Hamburg, best known for movies such as Meet the Parents, Along Came Polly, Zoolander and I Love You, Man. That should give you a good idea of what you're getting yourself into. The plot may seem a little predictable, but it's the characters and the jokes that carry this movie through. Hamburg's track record may be hit and miss, but when he hits, he's the best when it comes to his special brand of gross out humor. I don't like when other writers or director attempt to do gross out humor, because most times they miss a key ingredient. That key ingredient is the straight man, the one who has to react to all the crazy antics happening around him, and Hamburg masters that character in Ned Fleming.
Buried beneath all that raunch is actually a rather nice lesson for each of the main characters. As an overprotective parent, Ned learns to take a step back and let his children make their own decisions, not only by accepting Laird into the family, but by listening to Scotty's ideas to improve the business. As for Laird, he basically learns how to be relatively "normal" with some helpful advice from Ned.
I want to end this review on a positive note, so I'll get my complaints out of the way now. Really, my only problem with this movie is the same problem I have with a lot of comedies that go beyond the 90 minute mark. It's weird, this is the only genre where I'm really strict about the runtime, but that's because it's easier to tell when certain scenes overstay their welcome. For example, there are plenty of scenes where a genuinely funny joke would flame out cause the scene just won't end.
Finally, the soundtrack is awesome. Theodore Shapiro composed the score, and he does fine for what this sort of movie requires, but that's not what I wanted to talk about. One thing that the Fleming family bonds over is there love for the band KISS, so of course they play the classics like "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "I Was Made For Lovin' You." But what's even better is the cameo by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. I won't spoil the details, just that it was a cool way to end the film.
Why Him? was just the kind of movie I needed to see tonight, and could go down in history as a sleeper Holiday classic. If you're a fan of any of John Hamburg's previous movies, then you'll definitely enjoy this. As for James Franco and Bryan Cranston, they make a fine comedic duo, and I hope I get to see more from them in the future aside from The Masterpiece, which is supposed to come out next year.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Why Him? If so, what did you think? Also, what are some of your favorite Christmas comedies of all time? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my last new movie review of 2016, where I talk about Denzel Washington's latest directorial effort, based on August Wilson's award winning play Fences.