Why Him? Review: Cranston and Franco Fight Dirty

Why Him? follows good-natured dad Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) who is the good-natured boss of printing company. Times are getting hard for print, and that evolving market hits home when Ned and his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) discover their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) has been with a secret boyfriend while at college: Internet fortune kid, Laird Mayhew (James Franco).

To Ned, Laird is everything the steadfast and stalwart print man is not, and it drives poppa bear crazy. What results is a weekend of increasingly zany and inappropriate mishaps at Laird's California estate, thereby driving a thickening wedge between Ned and Laird - and eventually, between Stephanie and the two important men in her life.

Director John Hamburg (I Love You, Man) and his co-writers Jonah Hill and Ian Helfer (Wet Hot American Summeri) try to mix real family-style sentiment with some pretty intense raunch in Why Him? The balance isn't always right (in some cases way off), but the film does connect at points for some big comedic laughs from a talented cast.

Bryan Cranston and James Franco in Why Him

The premise is your basic 'meet the parents' concept flipped around, allowing for a framework of mundane traditions and ettiquette that the filmmakers can then bend into the twisted shape of some intense raunch comedy">comedy. To call the comedy "low-brow" would be fair, since most of it revolves around sex and poop, and the extreme awkwardness that arises when all of that is explored through the lens of parental bonds.

Nobody wants to think about their parents being in the room while they have sex (or vice versa), but Why Him? is the sort of film that delights in putting us in that very sort of situation. Things sometimes get pushed a bit too far, to the point of being off-putting; however, there is a genuine sentiment underneath all the crassness, as the film manages to somehow steer itself into a relatable and sweet story of father/boyfriend rivalries evolving into father/son friendships.

The most redeeming quality of the film is, of course, the cast. Why Him? is a basically a vehicle for Cranston and Franco to cut loose and try to outdo one another comedically; the Malcolm in the Middle and Pineapple Express stars each have comedy chops, and their chemistry onscreen is electric and fun. Of the two, Franco steals the show, adding another fantastic comedic character to his resume, with the totally unfiltered mouth of Laird Mayhew.

Supporting cast members consist of a deep bench with top-notch talent. Megan Mullally's (Will & Grace) dry wit is as sharp as her alternating moments of slapstick; Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele) is a scene-stealer as Laird's new age man-servant, Gustav; Zoey Deutch actually brings character to the objectified prize that is Steaphanie; and famous faces like Cedric the Entertainer pop in for great comedic moments. Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco is also a standout (with just her voice!) playing Laird's sassy version of Siri, "Justine."


In the end, those who like Jonah Hill / James Franco-brand raunch comedy will be happy with what Why Him? offers. Those looking for something a little more family-friendly in their holiday movie should probably look elsewhere. What Cranston and Franco do, will leave you feeling dirty.

Why Him? is now playing in theaters. It is 1 hour 51 minutes long, and is Rated R for strong language and sexual material throughout.