An under-the-radar Christmas movie, what “Why Him?” lacks in plot and substance it more than makes up for in a handful of great performances.
When Ned Fleming’s (Bryan Cranston) beloved daughter invites her family out to California for the holidays to meet her new boyfriend, the last thing they expect is for him to be silicon valley tech millionaire Laird Mayhew (James Franco). Things go from bad to worse when Ned realises that Laird plans to propose on Christmas Eve.
There’s certainly a vague attempt at an actual plot here, beyond the confines of the father vs would-be son-in-law knockabout schtick but it doesn’t really go anywhere beyond a few references to balance sheets and deals falling through. No, the real value – and entertainment – is in watching four masters of squirming, embarrassment comedy giving it all they’ve got. Cranston, of course, is no stranger to awkward family comedy from his “Malcolm In The Middle” days while Franco’s default persona tends towards the shameless and profane, this time round to hilarious effect. When you toss Megan Mullally and Keegan-Michael Key, you get a scattergun comedy which may stagger all over the place but hits the funnybone more often than it misses. Sure, Cedric The Entertainer could have had a bit more to do and there’s an excruciatingly unfunny scene featuring nobody’s favourite cameo actor Adam DeVine which could have and should have been cut from the film entirely but generally it’s all good natured, stupid fun.
“Why Him?” won’t win any awards and it may struggle to find a regular slot in any annual Christmas rewatching schedules but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t chuckling through most of it, and even the inevitable final third loss of momentum that these types of comedies always suffer from didn’t cut down on the laugh quotient. After all, where else are you going to find Elon Musk and Gene Simmons in the same movie?