Breaking dad: ‘Why Him?’ sticks to comedic formula

All will be forgotten come New Year’s.
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Two and a half stars

Why Him? Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch. Directed by John Hamburg. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

Every so often, in times of creative stagnation, Hollywood falls back on the “uptight square versus aggravating free spirit” comedy formula. What About Bob? was a particularly popular, if odious, example, and Ben Stiller later cornered the market in junk like the Meet the Parents films and Along Came Polly. The former trilogy was co-written, and the latter film was written and directed, by John Hamburg, who now regurgitates the formula for Why Him? The best one can say about this Christmas release is that Bryan Cranston is not especially uptight and James Franco is not especially aggravating.

Franco plays an Internet millionaire intent on marrying Steph (Zoey Deutch). Even though she loves her father (Cranston), who runs a dying printing company, she has not told him about the romance. They all assemble for Christmas, with plenty of forced, stupid humor, including—no kidding—characters stuck on toilets, a misuse of the word “bukkake” and a glass tank full of moose urine (when will it break?). It will all be forgotten come New Year’s, but, unexpectedly, the occasional moment of genuine, human humor sometimes slips through. Franco is unfiltered and loony, a tamer version of his Spring Breakers madcap, and Cranston knows how to deliver a silent reaction that can stop a show.

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