NEW YORK (CNS) — The makers of “Why Him?” (Fox) evidently couldn’t decide whether their film should be a raunchy sex comedy or a tamer tale about the clash between established family values and the often bereft behavior of the untethered newly wealthy.
So they split the difference, resulting in an unpleasant botch that becomes an audience endurance contest.
Bryan Cranston plays family patriarch Ned, the owner of a money-losing commercial printing operation in Michigan. For Christmas, Ned, wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) go to California to visit daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch).
What the visitors don’t know beforehand is that Stephanie is engaged to Laird (James Franco), an immature, nearly feral gazillionaire who makes video games and has a large estate populated by exotic animals on the outside and glassy-eyed beta-testers inside.
That’s it. That’s the entire pretext from director John Hamburg, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jonah Hill and Ian Helfer: stolid Midwestern parents meet wild-eyed, crude-talking, incredibly wealthy man-child.
Laird finds it amusing, among other antics, to teach 15-year-old Scotty how to spout filth and to get Barb high on marijuana-laced brownies. As for Ned, we’re meant to be in suspense about whether Laird will eventually give him a financial bailout.
All the while Stephanie looks on beaming, because she’s in love with her guy and clueless about the negative impression he creates. The blindness of her affection is of a piece with the complete absence of any moral structure in “Why Him?”
The film contains fleeting rear nudity, drug use, crude sexual banter, including references to aberrant acts, scatological humor and pervasive rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.