If you’ve seen any comedy about in-laws released in the past 20 years then you’ve already seen Why Him? Although, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Starring Brian Cranston and James Franco, Why Him? follows a disgruntled stuck in the past paper printer maestro as he stays for a few days at his daughter’s boyfriend’s swanky house in Los Angeles. Before long however, it’s clear that the boyfriend (James Franco) has a lot more to him than meets the eye.
In-law comedies are something of a strange sub-genre, and ever since Meet the Fockers we haven’t really seen anything that has lived up to it. Why Him? has a few really funny moments involving all sorts of phallic objects and slapstick humour, but nothing rings through as particularly original, inventive or innovative. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This film is the equivalent of McDonalds. You know exactly what you’re gonna get, and if that’s what you want, then by all means grab it.
The real stars of this show are the side characters. Keegan Micheal-Key is brilliant as Gustav, Franco’s zany German estate manager who tends to his every need. Cranston’s wife and son, although relatively simplistic characters also have great moments to shine in one off scenes.
What bothers me most about Why Him? is how ultimately forgettable the entire experience is. Even as I write this a day or so since I saw the movie, I’m struggling to truly remember the exact developments of the plot. Dialogue is as on the nose as can be, and the ending is predictable if you’ve seen any other Christmas movie… ever.
The movie does seem to have an utter fascination with technology. A lot of the funnier gags revolve around the likes of Japanese toilets and omniscient artificial intelligence voiced by Big Bang Theory stars. In fact, there’s a half baked message about not being stuck in the past somewhere in the reeds of this film, but half baked is as good as it ever gets.
But despite all of that, I find it hard to really dislike the movie. Why Him? may be completely forgettable, but it’s also totally harmless and has a tender heart. Somewhere near the final scenes, despite the fact that it hastily tries to wrap up quite a few narrative threads without totally resolving many of them, it’s difficult not to leave with something like a smile on your face.
If you’re looking for a Christmas related comedy film you could do a lot worse than Why Him? but that said, don’t go in expecting anything more than a disposable comedy that you won’t remember seeing this time next year.