Why Him? doesn’t reinvent the raunchy Christmas-themed comedy, but like a visit home for the holidays, it proves to be (oddly) comforting.
Effectively the umpteenth retread of the Meet the Parents formula Hollywood has been turning out for the past 15 years — seemingly problematic boyfriend meets uptight family — the John Hamburg-directed Why Him? nevertheless provides ample laughs, and yet another opportunity for the fearsomely talented Keegan-Michael Key to steal every scene he’s in.
Bryan Cranston stars as Ned Fleming, whose daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) has just invited her Midwestern family out to Los Angeles for the holidays to meet her unbeknownst-to-them boyfriend, Laird Mayhew (James Franco), a renegade tech billionaire. Ned’s steadfast dedication to the old-fashioned way of life predictably clashes with Laird’s breakneck, 21st-century lifestyle — Key, who stars as Laird’s assistant Gustav, routinely underlines the surreal nature of Laird’s existence — creating one explosively funny set-piece after another.
What saves Why Him? from collapsing into an episodic slog (as happens with the season’s other blockbuster comedy, Office Christmas Party) is the deft character work by the entire cast (including Megan Mullally as Ned’s equally tightly wound wife, Barb), giving audiences something to hold onto beyond the punchlines. Franco and Cranston, in particular, find flickers of humanity in their characters, giving depth to what are very well-worn stereotypes.
☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: John Hamburg
Cast: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Megan Mullally
Rating: R (strong language and sexual material throughout)
Running time: 111 min.