By Thomas Simpson
James Franco is a divisive actor. Rarely will you meet someone indifferent to his acting, instead audiences either love him or hate him. I am very much in the former camp but the idea of him pitting himself against Bryan Cranston in a tired and hackneyed Father versus Fiancé comedy did little to whet my appetite. As 2016 was closing to an end, we needed a good laugh but did Why Him? deliver?
Ned Fleming (Cranston) is a family man, old school. When he finds out his daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutsch) has been secretly dating he is apprehensive about meeting the new man. Laird (Franco) is a young billionaire with a penchant for swearing and eagerness to be accepted. Both men soon find themselves at odds over what they both believe is best for Stephanie.
It’s a plot that’s played out a million times before and although there isn’t much originality in the premise, the chemistry and performances of the two leads make for amusing viewing. Franco is at home playing the new age hippie “brah” presenting an alluring charm while delivering a cringe worthy obnoxiousness. The shtick wouldn’t work without a straight man and Cranston fits that role with ease. No stranger to dad comedy, Cranston is great as the surly and overprotective Ned, giving more depth to a character that’s fairly two dimensional.
Although Why Him? is entertaining for the most part, director John Hamburg has a tendency to allow scenes to outstay their welcome. There are many laughs to be had but some of them would be more effective if the fat was trimmed off. This is most evident in the film’s climax that delivers a few pleasant surprises while dragging on. With a runtime of 111 minutes it’s hardly Return of the King yet it would benefit from allowing a few minutes here and there to remain on the cutting room floor.
A strong cast helps elevate this run of the mill comedy with Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key in offering wonderful supporting roles as Ned’s wife Barb and the eccentric estate manager Gustav. One particular gag involving a chicken and parkour is hilarious, while the best lines are reserved for Franco. Why Him? doesn’t offer anything new but it does produce some much needed laughs as the year closes out.