Why Him?


Release: Friday, December 23, 2016


Written by: John Hamburg; Ian Helfer

Directed by: John Hamburg

My biggest gripe with Why Him? It’s actually not that it represents yet another painfully unfunny Christmas comedy. Well, it kind of is. I’m dismayed more because it is a painfully unfunny Christmas comedy starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston! Also translated as: Walter White, Shannon, Robert Mazur, and of course, Hal Wilkerson.

Now he’s Ned Fleming, a name you won’t be able to remember beyond the parking lot of your local cineplex. It’s always painful to see a great actor slumming it, but for Cranston to star in a vehicle that made me mad at even James Franco — someone whom I actively defend for being unusual and pretentious — it begs the question why do we even try to admonish professional actors for the choices they make in careers that never directly affect us? It’s clear our outrage, pretend or real, never accomplishes anything.

Ned Fleming is the father of Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and he shares in my pain. When he is invited to California for Christmas, forced to buck family tradition of spending the holiday in Michigan, he becomes dismayed by the man his daughter is currently seeing: James Franco with a shit ton of tattoos! He plays a billionaire game developer named Laird Mayhew, an obnoxious caricature of the actor himself whose own modus vivendi runs counter to just about everyone on the planet because he himself is an art project constantly evolving and expanding.

The Ned-Laird feud could have been played for laughs, but a script co-written by director John Hamburg and Ian Helfer seems to have forgotten to incorporate the jokes. Unless the joke is, of course, ultra-meta: everyone who just bought a ticket hoping for the good times to roll via a decent if disposable new entry into the crowded genre of farcical family/Yuletide comedies has just gotten ripped off. And Bryan Cranston and James Franco are in it — why them?!


Recommendation: Goodness, no. But I will say this: the film at least afforded fans of KISS to watch Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons stoop to a new low by making a totally awkward cameo towards the end of the film. So there is that.

Rated: R

Running Time: 111 mins.

Quoted: “I mean, what in God’s name is a double-dicker?” 

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

9 thoughts on “Why Him?

  1. Pingback: Month in Review: January ’17 | Thomas J

  2. I think it looked pretty crappy from the start so this kinda verifies that. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the state of the modern comedy is pretty depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s expected that for every decent-to-good modern comedy we get a handful of crap ones. My gripe is — why do the latter have to be so easily found and available to the masses, and not the other way around? Why can’t more good comedies make it to the theaters, or at least have a more broad ‘limited’ run if that’s how they’re going to be rolled out. (I’ve seen no signs at all that we are going to be getting Taika Waititi’s ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople,’ and that thing looks wonderful. In fact it’s amazing at all that I got to see What We Do in the Shadows when it came around. The crap comedies are in abundance, and it gives the impression that there are no other alternatives. There are. They’re just hard to find. Which is frustrating.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s just bad. But let me be clear about something: this isn’t quite Robert Deniro playing a dirty grandpa. I never saw that but I read enough to know that was probably a career low for him. The problem with Why Him isn’t that it’s disgusting or rude or whatever. It just isn’t funny.


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