Why Him? finds Bryan Cranston and James Franco squaring off in a new iteration of the “Daddy, meet my boyfriend,” holiday movie. Cranston is Ned Fleming, a proud small business man in a faltering industry. Franco is Laird Mayhew, an app-developing millionaire. They have nothing in common, except that they both love Stephanie (Zoey Fleming) fiercely.
So, when Ned brings the family out to visit Stephanie for Christmas and gets a surprise invitation to stay at Laird’s place, the requisite perfect storm begins to brew. Much is made of Laird’s tech lifestyle and eccentricities. But also that he’s a relentlessly kind dude who doesn’t have a filter, much less the capacity to deceive anyone. If anything, he only wants to find a way to get his lady love’s family to accept him. Ned, of course, hates everything about Laird and immediately starts to spin out of control.
What follows is the predictable dance of this kind of story. Why Him? is occasionally funny, but far more often pedestrian. Cranston, in particular, is not given the space to play to his strengths. His best moment comes ripping a pack of Pop Tarts open and biting though both Tarts at once because he’s so famished from turning his nose up at the high-concept cuisine surrounding him. It’s a bit of physical execution that’s reminiscent of his pre-Breaking Bad days on Malcolm in the Middle where he used squeaks and anguished faces and bizarre gestures to bust viewers up.
Franco is comfortably in the zone of loveable weirdo, but with an uninspired script it feels rather stale. Instead, kudos must go to Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key, who steal a number of scenes and infuse some fun into the formula. And though she’s never seen on screen Kaley Cuoco lends her voice to a Jarvis like digital personal assistant who claims many of the pictures best barns and one-liners.
There are far better options in theaters than Why Him? this holiday season — if it’s R-rated antics you crave, Office Christmas Party has all the formula and double the laughs. Catch Cranston and company on tv come this time next year, it cannot possibly get more stale for the wait.