‘Why Him?’ is a step up from other recent raunchy Christmas movies

It’s like that old saying: The third raunchy Christmas movie of the season is the charm.

Following in the footsteps of the ugly, hateful “Bad Santa 2” and the waste-of-a-terrific-cast “Office Christmas Party,” “Why Him?” had an admittedly low bar to clear. But while the previews may look frightful, the movie is unexpectedly delightful — depending on just how much James Franco you can tolerate.

Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston), the owner of a Michigan printing company, is a man of simple tastes. He loves his life, his employees and every moment he gets to spend with his family: wife Barb (Megan Mullally), daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) and 15-year-old son Scotty (Griffin Gluck).

But during Ned’s 55th birthday party, when he receives a surprise video chat from Stephanie that’s broadcast onto a wall at an Applebee’s, Ned learns she has a boyfriend when Laird (Franco) lets himself into her Stanford dorm room and starts removing his pants.

Seeking a chance to showcase Laird’s good side, Stephanie invites her family to spend Christmas in California where, much to their surprise, they learn Laird is a Silicon Valley millionaire — albeit one who uses F-bombs the way others use prepositions.

Making it tougher to see past Laird’s rough exterior is the fact that he’s oft-shirtless, covered in tattoos including her face over his heart and their family Christmas card photo across his shoulders, and has a collection of “art” that’s mostly paintings of random animals procreating and a real dead moose suspended in its own urine.

Naturally, the straitlaced Ned is appalled, but Laird is determined to spend the weekend getting Ned to not only like him, but let him call him “Dad.” That last bit is crucial because Laird plans to use the family outing to propose to Stephanie. And that last bit sets off what’s supposed to be a battle of wills between the two men but is really just an excuse for another string of crude jokes.

If all of this sounds a bit like “Meet the Parents”/“Meet the Fockers,” at least director and co-writer John Hamburg, who wrote the script along with Ian Helfer and shares a “story by” credit with Jonah Hill, is only ripping off himself, as he wrote both of those movies as well.

Franco’s Laird hires “Top Chef’s” Richard Blais to open a pop-up restaurant in his mansion for the weekend, gets Steve Aoki to DJ his Christmas party and has his whole compound covered by a sassy, Siri-like artificial intelligence that he paid “The Big Bang Theory’s” Kaley Cuoco to voice.

“Why Him?” just may be the actor’s most Franco-y role yet — possibly even more Franco-y than his Franco-nian masterpiece, cornrowed rapper Alien in 2012’s “Spring Breakers.” It’s just a joy to watch him naively cause so much havoc in the Flemings’ lives, but then I’m an admitted Franco-phile.

The game-for-anything Cranston is much closer to his “Malcolm in the Middle” roots than his acclaimed “Breaking Bad” mode. Nothing shows off an actor’s range, though, quite like going from “I am the one who knocks” to “I am the one who’s at the mercy of a malfunctioning Japanese toilet.”

He and Mullally are great reactors to the wackiness surrounding them, more than a little of which is caused by Gustav, Laird’s estate manager/life coach, played in a clever turn by Keegan-Michael Key.

“Why Him?” isn’t a great movie. It’s barely even a good one. But I found myself laughing much harder and far more often than I expected — which was not at all.

You know exactly where “Why Him?” is going from the opening moments, but there are some filthy curves and gonzo detours along the way.

“Why Him?” The better question is, “Why not?”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Entertainment Videos
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of Las Vegas theater talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing