In today’s world, and R-rated comedy means more vulgar words and juvenile ideas, and not much of any highly sophisticated adult-related concepts. Today’s ‘dumbed down’ culture demands more formula driven comedies, not the better ones from the old days (“Caddyshack”, Animal House”, “Blues Brothers”, “Stripes”). Sometimes even the formula style comedy can hit a few high notes and be something fun to watch. That is especially true when the leads are Bryan Cranston and James Franco.
“Why Him?” is the story of Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) the owner of a family-run printing business in Grand Rapids. Ned and his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) have a daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) who is in California attending college. They also have a younger son named Scotty (Griffin Gluck). Ned and Barb learn that Stephanie has a boyfriend and he wants the whole family to come out and meet him.
The boyfriend is Laird Mayhew (James Franco) who is a multi-millionaire slacker dude who made a mint creating an online video gaming company. He is friendly and totally outgoing, but is lacking in many social graces. He is loud, rude, vulgar, and is heavily tattooed. Laird is an online gaming genius and a business wiz, but he lacks any type of social filter and he blurts out everything he thinks about at every second. When Ned and Laird meet – well — it does not go over well.
Laird is planning on asking Stephanie to marry him, and his idea is to make sure Ned is OK with that. Ned is not OK with that, and he wants to find anything that he can to use against Laird. Laird has Stephanie in his corner, and slowly he gets more help from Scotty and Barb. Laird has a full-time assistant/estate director named Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key) and with his help, Laird is able to win over everyone, except for Ned.
So it is a back-and-forth between Ned and Laird, all concerning Stephanie and a marriage proposal. There are quite a few funny moments, but there are even more periods of slack so-called comedy. When a major plot point takes place on a toilet, well, things could turn out crappy. And an artificial intelligence device called ‘Justine’ that Laird invents has the voice of Kaley Cuoco (of “The Big Bang Theory”) and makes jokes about how her voice sounds just like the girl from “The Big Bang Theory”.
Bryan Cranston is a joy to watch, but he gets stuck in the grouchy curmudgeon role. He gets to play off the slacker goofball that is James Franco, and Franco gets his role just right. There is not a whole lot of growth or development in either character, because the main function for each is be annoyed with the other one.
Megan Mullally does OK with the mom role, and Zoey Deutch as Stephanie proves that she has a mind of her own. Griffin Gluck is kind of stuck to the side. Keegan-Michael Key has a bizarre Slavic accent and a character that does not really do that much of anything. There are a lot of loose ends and odd things in this movie. Such as a ‘work of art’ that is a stuffed moose in a glass enclosure full of moose urine…
And as Chekov once famously said “If you show a glass box of moose urine in Act One, you must later see that used in Act Three”. Wait, did he say a ‘glass box of moose urine’ or did he say a ‘gun’? Either way, you can see that “Why Him?” is loud and occasionally funny vulgar comedy. It is much more enjoyable if you have a thing for toilets and moose urine, so that might narrow the audience a little bit.