Raleigh, N.C. — If you’ve ever read one of my movie reviews and wondered why I am so negative about so many new movies, I invite you to go see Why Him.
It’s in theaters on Christmas Day, it stars Bryan Cranston, James Franco and Megan Mullally, and it is literally a showcase of everything that is wrong with comedy in Hollywood. Let’s start with the fact that there are no jokes in this movie. Literally none. Every laugh line is a cameo.
Franco’s character throws a party with a DJ -- “OMG is that Steve Aoki? Fun!" Bryan Cranston’s character meets a businessman at a bar -- “Hey that’s the Elon Musk guy that owns Tesla! LOLz!”
Everyone in the movie loves Kiss. “Wow! That’s really Kiss!” - [insert smiley face emoji]. Literally one minute into the movie I gave up on it having even a single moment that would make me genuinely laugh.
Then a miracle happened. Fifteen minutes later I found myself giggling, and it wasn’t because of a cameo. It was because a buffalo walked across the screen and for some reason my first instinct, like a six year old, was to giggle because it was big and hairy.
"Why Him" is all down hill from there.
The movie opens with Laird (Franco) on a FaceTime call with his girlfriend Stephanie, played by Zoey Deutch. She isn’t a newcomer, but I have never heard of anything she’s been in before this. Anyway, Stephanie tells Laird that she is done with her finals, so he should come over to “Netflix and chill” (OMG! Internet slang! This movie is so hip). From there Laird proceeds to scream the names of Netflix shows for a solid two minutes.
Later in the movie there’s a scene where Laird points out that he has a dead moose preserved in a tank of its own urine. I bet you can’t guess what happens next!
This is "Why Him" in a nutshell.
James Franco doesn’t play a character. He plays a volume. Christ, this movie is garbage. Alright, I’m not even going to do a full recap, because what’s the point?
I’ll just give you the broad strokes. Stephanie invites her family (Cranston and Mullalley) to California for Christmas to meet Laird. Laird tells Cranston’s character -- a straight-laced man named Ned (more on this in a moment) who is being left behind by the modern world -- that he is going to ask Stephanie for her hand in marriage, hence the title of the movie.
Ned, of course, freaks out. Megan Mullalley (whose character's name I cannot even remember) learns that despite the vulgar, internet billionaire exterior, Laird is a guy with fairly traditional values and goals. They just don’t show up in Laird the way they do in other people because then there wouldn’t be a movie.
So Ned alienates Stephanie, who tells him that she is in love with Laird because he reminds her of Ned. You know how 20-somethings are always willing to admit or even self-aware enough to realize that they really want to date their parents?
Enough recap. Let’s talk about Ned. Ned Flemming.
Let me reiterate that this is a straight-laced guy with a business that seemingly has no place in the modern world. He has a very traditional idea of family values. He judges those that don’t share a similar worldview. He’s fond of sweaters and khakis.
Does that sound familiar? Maybe like a certain neighbor from the longest running show in the history of television? Maybe someone also named Ned? Amongst "Why Him’s" many sins is that the filmmakers don’t even try to hide the fact that the movie’s main character is Ned Flanders.
And that brings me to another question that maybe someone reading this has the answer to. I like Bryan Cranston. I think he’s a talented guy. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him and found him to be kind and funny, but I’ve never felt the need to learn more about him than what is in the press. Does he have massive gambling debts? Was he a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme? Why the hell is a guy that talented in a movie this bad?
I was going to do this next week, but "Why Him" is so bad that I might as well give you my five worst movies of 2016 right now, and brother there are a lot to choose from.
5. Suicide Squad
4. Why Him
2. Girl on the Train
1. Angry Birds
Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.