‘Why Him?’ Finds Heart in the Havoc

‘Why Him?’ plays off a straightforward concept with an ensemble cast and a sentiment that runs deeper than most R-rated comedies in recent memory.

John Hamburg’s ‘Why Him?’ shadows its familiar themes with a heart of gold.

why him
Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

For all the guilty pleasures in the world, this one feels a little less guilty. Director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, I Love You, Man) brings audiences Why Him?, a romantic comedy that plays dirtier than most in its category. Nevertheless, there’s something off the beaten path with this raunch-fest, something inherently deeper. Hamburg takes a universal concept and squeezes it for all of its concentrated emotions, making a comedy with enough charm to give some of its vulgarity your blessing.

Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) runs a local printing business on the outskirts of Grand Rapids, Mich.  What sets him apart is his consuming love for his family, especially his Stanford-bound daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch). When Stephanie invites the Fleming family to California for the holidays, Ned is quickly introduced to her boyfriend, billionaire tech mogul Laird Mayhew (James Franco). What ultimately results is a race towards Ned’s fatherly approval, amidst the many warning signs of Laird’s unrefined behavior.

Why Him?, in full disclosure, does not work towards any new discoveries around this timeless archetype. The comedy sticks to its guns with a routine-frame of mind, making for a hero’s journey that’s all too commonplace in the genre.

However, Hamburg pulls a Hail Mary, hoping the audience can find their way into a more bona-fide perspective beneath the quick laughs. In this sense, one becomes drawn to the camaraderie, the genuine understanding about a subject so innate in our culture’s blood. Hamburg uses this as a springboard for his “dirty talk,” allowing him some leeway in exchange for a heart of gold.

“First, it was Bryan Cranston and Frankie Muniz,” said Andrew Stahl, both a Hackensack native and long-time comedy fanatic. “Then, it was Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. And now, Cranston joins his new comedy duo partner, James Franco, in a comedy that rivals the giants. I found Why Him? quite entertaining.”

The overall truth is that Why Him? will lose luster with age, as will its ability to charm its way to the finish line. However, until that time comes, this rom-com (of sorts) will continue to depend on its sincerity for laughs. And, hopefully, with the right amount of understanding, it’s enough to leave the audience asking themselves, “Why not?”

Why Him? is now playing in movie theaters worldwide. Some more local venues include AMC Clifton Commons, AMC Loews Wayne 14 and Bow Tie Caldwell Cinemas. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com and start planning your trip to the movies today.

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