30 December 2016 | dave-mcclain
"Why Him?" is crudely hilarious and hilariously crude, mostly because of the film's perfect casting.
When is crude humor actually funny? Any answer to that question is highly subjective and there are probably as many ways to answer it as there are Movie Fans reading this review. For some, the answer would be simply "never", but for most, it seems to depend at least a little on age, gender and ethnicity, but mostly on personal experiences and outlook on life. In the opinion of this Movie Fan / film reviewer, comedic cinematic crudities are the best which offend the least. In other words, it's all about the context in which the humor is presented. Adult language, for example, isn't funny just because there's a lot of it, but the use and/or amount of it can be very funny if it's in service to a plot which calls for it – and in situations that are otherwise comical on their own. Adult humor (such as R-rated language, personal insults, juvenile humor, sex jokes, outrageous sight gags, etc.) is much funnier when it's good natured – as opposed to mean-spirited – especially when children or other vulnerable or minority populations are involved. All this is especially true for holiday comedies, which is why I can hate the "Bad Santa" movies, but still love films like 2011's "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas" – and 2016's "Why Him?" (R, 1:51).
The character asking this film's titular question is Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), an old-fashioned owner of a struggling printing company and loving husband to similarly uptight Barb (Megan Mullally), 15-year-old budding businessman Scotty (Griffin Gluck) and college student Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). Stephanie has fallen in love with a somewhat older and very successful video game company CEO named Laird Mayhew (James Franco). Laird is completely without guile, but, as the mother of "The Waterboy" (1998) described her son, "lacks the social skills". Laird isn't a nerd, but his father and mother were both lacking in
the positive parental influences
and Laird is now an adult without inhibitions – or a filter between what comes into his head and what comes out of his mouth. (Think
an even more free-spirited, cruder and much more intelligent version of most of Adam Sandler's movie characters from the mid-late 90s).
After Stephanie's relationship with Laird is unexpectedly and hilariously
exposed to her family, they fly from their home in Michigan to California in order to meet and spend Christmas with Steph's new beau. Let's just say that Laird makes quite a first impression. His estate manager, the European and vaguely Germanic Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key), is only a little more socially astute than Laird and tries to advise his employer and friend on how to get on Ned's good side, noting, "You two don't speak the same language. You speak English, with resounding amounts of f---." Laird is able to win over Scotty and even Barb, but is very desperate to impress Ned, so he can get Ned's blessing to propose to Stephanie. Laird's millennial eccentric lifestyle, his impromptu self-defense training sessions with Gustav and his wild parties make winning Ned's approval even more challenging, but makes for a lot of fun for the audience.
"Why Him?" is crudely hilarious and hilariously crude, mostly because of the film's stellar cast. It's not just that this cast is experienced and talented (which they are – in spades), but they are amazingly well-suited for their roles. Franco is pitch perfect playing what seems to be a more outlandish version of himself. Cranston and Mullally's TV sitcom cred make them ideal as the parents – and with excellent chemistry. Key is similarly comedically inspired, rising star Gluck is just the right amount of earnestly precocious and Deutch is a wonderful combination of smart, strong and sexy. There are also some great cameos – in person and via voice work, as is the case with Kaley Cuoco, playing herself, serving as the voice of Laird's practically sentient and seemingly omniscient and omnipresent household AI system. (Think
a smarter, humorous, sarcastic and conversant version of the ubiquitous Amazon Echo's Alexa.) Of course, the script by John Hamburg and Ian Helfer give the actors plenty of jokes and funny situations to work with, while Hamburg's direction makes great use of his ensemble's chemistry and comedic talents (including allowing for and encouraging plenty of improvisation) and he keeps the film's pacing and the timing of its gags on point. Unfortunately, some of the jokes are more bizarre than humorous, there are a few unintentionally awkward moments and the amount of Laird's bizarre behavior that Stephanie tolerates feels unrealistic, but those are relatively minor issues. The basic question at this point is
why see "Why Him?" The answer for those who aren't automatically offended by crude humor and who enjoy that type of comedy when it comes with heart and is actually funny, is
Why Not? "A-"