Why Him? and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by John Hamburg
Ugh… so just because Daddy’s Home was a decent movie means we’ll be getting raunchy sitcom movies every Christmas? I’ve been dreading this movie since the first trailer came out; not just because of how bad it looks, but because it has two REALLY talented leads in it who both can be doing so much more than… whatever the this is supposed to be. Oh well, I could be wrong. After all, Daddy’s Home looked almost as bad as this film, and I ended up enjoying that quite a bit! Can this be the surprise hit of the holiday season; even with Rouge One and Sing looing large over the multiplexes!? I kinda doubt it, but let’s find out!!
The movie is all about the Fleming family; headed up by Ned (Bryan Cranston) and consisting of wife Barb (Megan Mullally), teenage son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) and grown up daddy’s girl Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). Without much warning, the family finds out that Stephanie has managed to land a boyfriend while at college and that she hadn’t bothered to tell them about him for months now, so OBVIOUSLY she has to drag them out to California just so they can meet him and of course this happens during the holidays so we can add that bit of tension on top of things. When the family arrives they find that the man of Stephanie’s dreams is some dude nearly forty named Laird Mayhew (James Franco) who acts like he’s still in college and is never called out on his shit because he is LOADED. Yeah, something about a monkey war game app which has to be Candy Crush levels of popular for him to be THIS rich, but it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that this overzealous bohemian stoner has ensnared the heart of Ned’s baby girl, and while there’s not much he can do to stop this, he’ll be damned if he enables this. That attitude comes to a head when Laird confides that he is going to ask Stephanie to marry him on Christmas Day and wants Ned’s blessing which he doesn’t get. Not one to give up though, Laird promises to make this the best weekend ever and try to convince Ned that he’ll be a good husband for Stephanie and the best son in law ever! Will Ned warm up to Laird’s unique ways of expressing himself and accept him for who he is? Will the rest of the family fall in line with Ned, or will they be enticed by Laird’s limitless supply of money and video games? Is anyone else finding this just the TINIEST bit creepy?
The only thing surprising about this movie is that it wasn’t worse. Don’t get me wrong. This is a TERRIBLE movie that’s a total slog to get through, but there seems to have been a conscious effort to pull back in certain areas which means that there ARE scenes where stupid and offensive shit isn’t happening, but because the writers didn’t know what to put in its place, there’s still nothing GOOD happening either. In a movie this lousy, brief respites of nothingness and mediocrity a breath of fresh air when compared to how awful everything else is, but there’s still nothing to actually enjoy in here other than MAYBE a joke or two landing and James Franco’s overly earnest performance OCCASIONALLY causing a chuckle. That’s the nicest thing I can really muster for this film, but at least that means it’s ever so slightly better than the trailers make it out to be.
Now since I’m being so generous with this movie, Let’s start with what ends up working here. For one, the trailers sold this movie as a straight up goofy pissing match between a straight laced guy going off the deep end and a rich guy with lots of money to throw around. It’s not quite that. For one, James Franco is never outwardly antagonistic towards Bryan Cranston and is always trying to get on his good side; even if he’s completely oblivious to how inappropriate he’s constantly being. That’s not to say he SHOULDN’T know better as his obnoxious behavior is far from endearing, but at least he doesn’t come off like a complete jerk trying to push Bryan Cranston’s buttons even if he doesn’t show any interest in correcting his actions. Because of this, Bryan Cranston doesn’t end up pushing as hard against Franco as much as you’d expect, and there are moments where he’s doing his best to be civil around this buffoon which is preferable to whenever they actually do get at each other’s throats.
Unfortunately, that’s about it. Everything else is unbearably weak as far as comedy goes, and they have no idea how to pace the damn thing which drags everything out interminably. They start with a joke, do the joke about seven times, do the joke another five times just for good measure, and then eventually the scene just fades away; never to be heard from again. The script is a series of individual set pieces cobbled together with no real drive, motivation, stakes, or consequences lasting more than one or two scenes, and while the obvious weaknesses in that kind of formula can be compensated with really great comedy, they don’t know how to write effective jokes in here, so the lackadaisical structure becomes all the more apparent. In fact, let’s talk about this so called humor in here. Almost all the big gags are based on shock vulgarity and they’re executed in that Long-Joke format where the idea is stretch the joke out so that it can go through the “funny/not funny/funny again” cycle. There are of course a few things wrong here. First, and your mileage might vary with this one, the humor is just not funny to begin with. Foul language is the cornerstone of the humor as the Cranston Family’s only real comedic purpose is to be the Straight-Man(or I guess Straight-Family) for Franco to get a rise out of. It’s all just so childish, and it makes it impossible to root for Bryan Cranston considering he doesn’t actually take a stand at any point for no reason that I can fathom. Why doesn’t he say in a polite but stern voice, DO NOT SWEAR LIKE THAT IN FRONT OF MY TEENAGE SON? Well the obvious answer is because they don’t have a movie otherwise which leads us to problem number two. Even if you DID find Franco’s potty mouth humorous (it managed to get a few chuckles out of me), it’s not enough to carry an entire film as the humor never elevates above the simple idea of Cranston being befuddled by Franco’s personality.
So taking out the HUMOR as a possible source of enjoyment in this COMEDY, is it at least a satisfying drama? Does the story of Ned coming to terms with Laird being the love of his daughter’s life have any weight or come to a satisfying conclusion? Not really, though the fact that it occasionally steers away from being a complete farce does at least help ground things a bit. Very sparsely throughout the film, there are scenes where James Franco and Bryan Cranston are just running an errand or something and the interplay between the two does work. Both are trying to be nice while also knowing there’s this neigh impenetrable wall between them, and I think for those very brief scenes you can see the better movie this could have been… maybe. However, those are so far and few between when compared with the stupid shit like a stuffed moose displayed in a jar of its own urine, that they simply aren’t enough to balance out this film or to give the audience a reason to buy into these characters for a second. In fact, it does what a lot of movies about a horrible character do and that’s to have all the positive interactions between the reprobate and the supporting cast (in this case, Cranston’s family) happen OFF SCREEN because there’s no way they could show us a scene that either makes him believably likable or can do so without making him a completely different character.
The support cast doesn’t do much better with the rest of the Cranston Family on hand just to do shtick and don’t really add anything to the story itself. His wife played by Megan Mullally exists only to react to what’s going on between Bryan Cranston and James Franco and it’s shocking how little chemistry she ends up having with her supposed husband. Her one big comedic scene falls spectacularly flat, not only because the material isn’t particularly funny but because Bryan Cranston’s reactions to what she’s doing are abysmal and it looks like he absolutely hated being there. His son played by Griffin Gluck is not much better as his arc is basically turning more and more into James Franco, but it doesn’t go anywhere as he only exists as window dressing for certain scenes, so a potential arc about him abandoning his current role model (dear old dad) for a new one doesn’t manifest in any meaningful way. Zoey Deutch as his daughter is at least TRYING to make the drama work as she’s the one most affected by their pissing contest, but she’s the hardest character to buy in this as her relationship to James Franco doesn’t make any sense (they’re ALWAYS fighting) and it’s completely unbelievable for this character, who is supposed to be grounded in the reality the movie sets up, wouldn’t know better than to spring THIS asshole on her straight laced family. What the hell did she EXPECT to happen!? The only supporting actor I will give credit to is Keegan-Michael Key as he is to bring something to the terrible material, and he does manage to work rather well with James Franco which gives the latter a chance to shine even if he’s still trying too hard, but he’s simply not in this enough to save the film and he also has a few moments that fall just as flat as anything else here.
I’ve seen comedies this year that have pissed me off way more than this one did, but that still doesn’t mean it’s worth seeing. Whatever brief glimpses of humor can be seen from James Franco and Keegan-Michael Key hamming it up are overshadowed by an unfocused script, and unbearable running time, and a fundamental misunderstanding of how to set up even the most basic jokes. I’d even recommend something like Yoga Hosers over this, because at least that’s FASCINATING in just how awful it is. This is not only terrible, but a boring nuts and bolts sort of way that doesn’t deserve the slightest bit of examination or critical thought; let alone your time and patience. Then again, the brief moments of restraint in here DID keep it from being as bad as you’d expect it to be which is more than can be said about that Kevin Smith film, but wherever this film ends up falling on the bad movie scale there’s still no reason to bother with this; on the big screen or at home.
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