Why Him? – Review (** 1/2)

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With its flat, made-for-TV production values, it’s little surprise that Why Him? is categorically a “wait for Netflix” effort, intermittently entertaining but utterly irrelevant as a theatrically-released film and best-suited to a streaming marathon on a hungover Sunday.

Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and their 15-year old son Scott (Griffin Gluck) visit their daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), who introduces them to her billionaire video game developer boyfriend, Laird Mayhew (James Franco). Laird’s foul-mouthed, no-nonsense manner completely blindsides the family, most of all Ned, who Laird is intent on winning over at any and all cost.

Bringing together the creative minds behind Zoolander and I Love You, Man should theoretically result in a comedy that’s at least entertainingly oddball if not outright good, yet this cookie-cutter rom-com is instead largely propped up by its excellent cast and mercifully R-rated tone.

Bryan Cranston is in full Malcolm in the Middle-mode here as a decent man flung into a series of increasingly absurd situations, while James Franco is, well, James Franco. Zoey Deutch is the pretty young lady stuck in the middle of them, but she’s merely a pre-requisite to set-up the escalating war between father and boyfriend.

The chuckles are intermittent and rarely uproarious, but at least the pic generally doesn’t stick in one place for too long, even if the 111-minute run-time is at least 20 minutes too much, and the later, more sentimental stretches stop the laughs stone dead for a brief time.

Why Him? is essentially predictable cinematic comfort food, offering up few surprises, yet the charms of Cranston and Franco in particular do make it more watchable than the wretched marketing would suggest. When it diverges into passing half-assed commentary on feminism and mistakenly assuming you’re actually attached to these characters, it is at the total loss of crafting a more consistent, streamlined good time.

It offers little reason to brave the winter cold for a trip to the cinema, but this middle-of-the-road romp will go down perfectly fine with friends, beers and junkfood in a few months’ time.

** 1/2

Why Him? is in cinemas now


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