Friday, December 23, 2016

Why Him?

By George M. Thomas

Bryan Cranston and James Franco in WHY HIM?

In WHY HIM? James Franco is every uptight, Midwest father’s nightmare with respect to who his prized possession – his daughter.

And let’s make little mistake about it, the notion that dear old Dad has to provide some of approval of who his little girl chooses to mate still remains ingrained in societal norms.

When someone such as Laird (Franco) comes along to challenge those notions, there’s an element of glee to be had. Then he opens his mouth. That’s the setup for this comedy that  revels in its vulgarity and drowns what little heart that shows up on occasion.

In this case, Laird represents both sides of that coin. He’s the accidental mindless cretin with a mouth that would make Amy Schumer blush.  He’s inappropriate almost 24/7 and he loves Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch), a 22-year-old Stanford student from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Stephanie just has to find a way to tell her stick-in-the-mud father, Ned (Bryan Cranston) the owner-operator of a small printing company struggling because of the Internet.  She talks her family into coming west for the Christmas holiday to meet Laird, and of course the new boyfriend, who is a wealthy tech entrepreneur, wants nothing more than to make a favorable impression. The reason:  he wants to marry her.

Of course Ned, despite his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and her feelings on the subject, has seen enough, especially given that Laird’s cast a spell over his entire family.

WHY HIM? has a lot of stuff going on, including the fact that it wants to tackle a lot of things – including regional cultural differences – instead of concentrating on the task at hand.   In that regard it’s all over the place, and despite the fact that it generates a few laughs - the kind of laughs that will make you feel pangs of guilt.

They come courtesy of Franco’s go-for-the-moment portrayal of Laird.  If nothing else it’s enthusiastic and he makes the character at least tolerable. Cranston is suitably frazzled with a touch of the resolute, but his quirky interplay with Franco isn't enough for this comedy.

As for the overall premise?  Treating women like property?  Not. Feeling. It.  And that’s the story with much of WHY HIM? 

Movie:  WHY HIM?
Director:  John Hamburg
Cast:  James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Rated:  R for strong language and sexual material throughout
Running time:  111 minutes
George’s rating: 1.5-of-4 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, and

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