Crude jokes and likeable stars can’t save Christmas

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Why Him?
Opens December 23
1.5 out of 5

It’s practically a tradition: Bland, incompetent comedies trying to pass for Christmas entertainment hit the market trying to make a quick buck. This year is no different: Almost Christmas, Office Christmas Party and Bad Santa 2 are as mediocre as they come. With weak storylines, little edge and few laughs, there is no good reason to watch them, particularly considering all the decent films vying for awards’ attention.

Why Him? is not much better, despite an energetic performance by Bryan Cranston. The Breaking Bad antihero is Ned, a printing impresario blindsided by news that his daughter is dating a Silicon Valley billionaire. Even worse, he’s expected to spend the holidays with him.

The host, Laird (James Franco, trying to pass for a 32 year-old), is eager to please, but he doesn’t have boundaries and totally lacks any sense of moderation. This rubs Ned the wrong way, and sets him on the path of sabotage. The cold war between analog Ned and digital Laird heats up slowly but surely, and even though the dad has plenty of reasons to be concerned about the well-being of his daughter, the movie sides with the wacky tycoon.

Outside an effective gag involving a paperless Japanese toilet, there’s little to laugh at in Why Him? The movie plays to Franco’s strengths (goofy, socially inept) but relies excessively on stunts and the audience’s good will toward the performers. Stripped of all the decorations, the script is pitiful. Imagine Meet the Parents, but from Robert De Niro’s perspective.

So why was Why Him? made? Blame Jonah Hill, who’s credited for the story (if not the script). Makes sense: Why Him? is a compilation of juvenile behaviour, pop culture callbacks and boorishness. Here’s a tip: being crude is not inherently funny, unless you’re 12.