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When I saw that Bryan Cranston had signed on to do a comedy film I knew it wouldn't just be any old movie. He's actually a brilliant comedic actor (as anyone who is familiar with 'Malcolm in the Middle' will be fully aware of) but his career has also advanced past that point and he can now pretty much pick and choose his roles as he likes. The other indicator that this was going to be a quality film was the attachment of writer/director John Hamburg. He has shown himself to be a sure sign of a great movie ('Little Fockers' probably being the one exception). Sometimes though, movies that you go into with the highest expectations turn out to be some of the worst. Fortunately that wasn't the case here, as 'Why Him?' is a very fine movie.
There were actually a lot of similarities between this and 'Meet the Parents' (also a Hamburg film), only with the roles reversed and the daughter's boyfriend being the crazy one. Quite a similar formula was followed and that makes perfect sense to me, because 'Meet the Parents' was a very enjoyable film.
The 'R' certainly helped it a lot too. Movies with the freedom of that rating are just so much more enjoyable to watch. Nothing feels off limits and the actors seem so much more comfortable in their characters with no restrictions on them. This is particularly prevalent in actors who like to improvise, and you could tell that improvisation was heavily used in this film, especially from James Franco.
What I love most about this film though is that while it is undoubtedly crass in nearly every scene, it also has a heart. While these characters might be mildly unrealistic, you can still relate to them and understand them as genuine people who actually mean well. Franco's performance is actually quite outstanding in this way. A lot of actors playing this role would probably come across quite unlikeable, but Franco never does. This could also be put down to excellent writing, but I give Franco equal credit.
The other stand-out (in a film that had zero weaknesses in terms of cast, they were all brilliant in their own way) was Keegan-Michael Key. The man knows funny. I imagine he was also improvising heavily and that freedom really lets his performance flourish. He manages to make some lines funny that really had no business coming across that way. Also one moment on the dance floor had me in stitches. His facials are as impressive as his line delivery. A great addition to the film.
I really enjoyed 'Why Him?'. The only flaw I could possibly find was a similar one again to 'Meet the Parents', where I found that lot of Cranston's actions (which drive the story) can come across a little unjustified and unnecessary, much the same as Ben Stiller's character in that movie. It's a minor problem though and something that is easy to get past. There is no shortage of laughs throughout and the film has a genuine heart, which is shown no better than in the final couple of scenes. A terrific effort from all involved.
I was able to see a preview in a pretty full cinema which gave a great atmosphere. The majority of the audience appeared to be enjoying this old fashioned knock about comedy. The laughs come mostly from the crazy situations the Cranston and Mullalley characters find themselves in and also from James Franco's awkwardness around his girlfriend's parents. Keegan-Michael Key also has his fair share of the gags most especially when he has to help out Cranston's character with an automatic toilet, this is one of the funniest but at the same time low-key scenes I have seen in many years. All of the performances are fabulous each one brings their own style of comedy to the film and young Griffin Gluck holds is own with his older co-stars. I have read reviews of people complaining that there's no depth to this film but I disagree it's about one character wishing to feel a part of a family while another wanting to remain relevant in their family and work life. I really enjoyed this film and left the cinema feeling good and intend see it again.
Possibly more so than any other genre, a solid ensemble cast (as well as the script, of course) is the absolute key to unlocking a decent comedy and unfortunately, the very central piece lets the whole film down: Bryan Cranston is not a leading comic and it very obviously shows. As one of this year's Best Actor nominees, Cranston fails to come across naturally in this lead role, with every joke and riff feeling more like a stiff and laboured effort than an organic energy, as the rest of his cast demonstrate, who are all more typically associated with the genre - and it really rather shows. His lead co-star, Franco, does a far more convincing job and manages to translate what should be an irritating and obnoxious character into a far more likable and funny character than expected. Megan Mullally is also worth a mention; the Parks and Rec star has a rather small role but manages to make quite the impression as Barb, even when the script doesn't quite serve her well enough, including a prolonged scene in which she is determined to have sex with her husband - this same plot was employed with absolutely hilarious results in Parks and Rec (in which she played the outrageous Tammy Two) but it falls completely flat here through no fault of her own. It's another example of a committed performance ploughing against all the odds. Talking of ploughing, the absolute star of this film is the youngest cast member - Griffin Gluck is continually hilarious and awarded the script's biggest laughs, but it is his conviction and joyous performance that secures these laughs, making him the most memorable element of the film, even with the lowest-billing of the main five stars.