Why Him? Review: Why Don’t You See Something Else Instead.
Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch) has been secretly dating internet billionaire Laird Mayhew (James Franco) for about a year. While skyping with her father (Bryan Cranston) during his birthday celebration, Laird walks into Stephanie’s apartment revealing they have been dating and no one in the family knew about it. Ned immediately begins to question the man dating his daughter but doesn’t want to pry for more information. After this awkward interaction, Stephanie decides that it would be best for everyone in her family to come up to Silicon Valley to meet Laird over Christmas break. This is when the “fun” and “funny” supposedly begin.
Why Him? is the newest holiday comedy from director/writer John Hamburg. For those who think they recognize that name, Hamburg is responsible for writing all three of the Meet the Parents films, I Love You, Man, and co-writing, Zoolander 1 & 2. Why Him? is like Meet the Parents mixed with Judd Apatow’s crude brand of humor. The result is what I consider to be one of the worst and most painfully unfunny films of 2016.
The film opens with a Facetime conversation between Franco and Deutch. It quickly spirals into the couple talking about “Netflix and Chill” which then leads to Franco screaming “Kimmy Schmidt” while unzipping his pants giving the audience a glimpse of his pubic hair. If you think this is funny, simply ignore the rest of my review and see this film. If you believe that this sounds awful, keep on reading as the film only continues to tumble downhill from here.
The premise of Why Him? has been done several times before and Hamburg does nothing with the material to make it noteworthy, interesting or funny. He writes characters that are almost cartoon-like making it pretty much impossible to believe that any of them could exist in real life. Cranston’s Ned is this clueless dad that runs a dying printing business. Ned assumes that his daughter is this innocent little girl even though she is in college and honestly is extremely attractive. Franco’s Laird is constantly over the top, spewing f-bombs left and right. Laird walks around his mansion talking about complete nonsense while casually pointing out how he is sexually aroused by everything around him including art and Ned’s wife Barb (Megan Mullally). There are several other supporting cast members including Mullally as Ned’s neglected wife, Keegan-Michael Key as Gustav, the odd housekeeper who works for Laird, and of course, Griffin Gluck who plays Scotty, the nerdy and awkward son of Ned and Barb.
The jokes in this film are all aimed toward those of lowest common denominator. While watching this film, I contemplated walking out several times because I just can’t understand how anyone can find what was being shown on-screen to be funny. There is a scene where Bryan Cranston sits on a toilet and tries to figure out how to wipe without toilet paper. Laird’s house is a smart house, so there is no paper anywhere. It turns out that the smart toilet is controlled by a downloadable app that actually shows a camera located in the toilet that controls water to shoot up and clean the anus. I know you think that I am kidding, but I am not. This actually happens in the film.
While reading the scene above might sound funny, watching it play out on-screen is truly a cringe-worthy experience. I realize that Cranston got paid a ton of money to do this film but watching such a talented actor that won so many awards playing Walter White sink this low is just embarrassing. There are other jokes in the film that are just as bad including Ned stating that he knows what the word “bukkake” means and using it out of context. The humor as you can probably tell is the bottom of the barrel type stuff. Nothing about these jokes are remotely witty or comedic; the jokes are simply there to be stupid or to attempt to gross-out the audience.
You would think at some point the film would stop trying to one up the previous joke, but it never does. Hamburg just keeps going and going, making this film so exhausting to watch. While I wasn’t enjoying the film at any point, I do remember the exact scene where I completely checked out and just gave up all hope that the film was ever going to get better. The scene I am referring too is where Ned calls his co-worker Kevin (Zack Pearlman) to help him hack Laird’s computer. This scene is so stupid and lazy as it is, but Hamburg just keeps running with it. The scene becomes a series of painfully unfunny moments that ends with an animated computer virus appearing on Kevin’s home computer where Kevin is shown being sexually violated by Laird.
The final 10-15 minutes of Why Him? goes exactly where you expect them to go. There are no surprises and everything you expect to happen in the end does, including an appearance from a very popular classic rock band. I think it is very easy to point the finger where the problem lies with this film and it isn’t with the actors. As much as Franco annoys me when he plays these stupid characters, he is doing exactly what the script asked of him. The same can be said about Cranston and the rest of the cast. The cast isn’t bad. It is the material in which they are required to work from. You can clearly see that most of the actors are trying, but there is just nothing there to work with.
While I have never been blown away by Hamburg as a writer or director, I must admit that I have always enjoyed most of his previous films. This one, however, is simply atrocious and there is no one to blame but Hamburg. He is the director and co-writer, so he had the most control over the material. This is his disaster and by far one of the worst films of the year. I don’t know when studios will stop making lazy comedies like this and go back to making more character driven comedies with real stories and heart to them. Not some crude comedy with 10 minutes at the end that is dedicated to trying to throw together some half-assed heartfelt moment hoping to redeem all the characters at once. It doesn’t work, and this formula is extremely tiresome and boring. Please, Hollywood, please make comedies funny again, I know there are plenty of writers who know how to do this.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s final rating for Why Him? is a 2 out of 10.