Why Him? (4 stars)

Why Him?

Bryan Cranston and James Franco go head to head in a superior comedy from John Hamburg

Every father's nightmare is that his daughter falls for someone he can't stand – that's the crux of Why Him?, a breezy, likeable comedy with the potential to make both slackers and old schoolers smile. Domestic warfare ensues when struggling printer Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) finds out that his daughter's choice of mate Laird (James Franco) is an uneducated hipster and tech multi-millionaire with completely baffling values.

Beautiful young Stanford student Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch) knows that she can't keep Laird, her raunchy older boyfriend, under wraps forever. So the family Fleming – father Ned, mother Barb (Megan Mullally, who does well in a limited role) and tech junkie brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck) fly out to meet the couple, unaware of Laird's alternative lifestyle. He eats the animals that roam on his lawn and keeps a paperless household, complete with glitchy Japanese toilets – a sure-fire irritant to Ned, who needs paper to run his life.

Laird's 'man' Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key) virtually steals the show as a kind of Cato / butler. Springing on Laird unannounced is part of his job but neither Laird nor Gustav understand Ned's gleeful reference to the Pink Panther films. In one stroke, the generations divide. While Why Him? keeps the lid on more serious gross-out humour, there are references to online porn, sex selfies and other acts so outside the Flemings' experience as to be nonsensical. (Yes, you will learn what bukake is by the end of the film.)

Directed and co-written by John Hamburg (who brought us I Love You, Man and co-scripted Zoolander, alongside the similar Meet the Parents), Why Him? isn't as polished as you'd hope, but its themes are recognisable and consistently amusing. Cranston is superb as the troubled father who won't give up without a fight, while Franco is on home turf as the wealthy man who thinks nothing of getting the Fleming family Christmas card tattooed on his back. With its superior cast and frisky script, Why Him? could be the comedy to unite the generations. Kids, take your parents. Parents, take your kids.

General release from Mon 26 Dec.

Why Him?

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: John Hamburg
  • Cast: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Keegan-Michael Key
  • UK release: 26 December 2016

Ned (Cranston) meets his daughter Stephanie (Deutch)'s crass and exuberant boyfriend Laird (Franco) and finds out that he's incredibly wealthy. Breezy, likeable comedy with Cranston superb as the troubled father and Franco on home turf as the boyfriend, while Key almost steals the show as Laird's Cato / butler.