Thursday, December 22, 2016

Xmas? Time for another crude comedy

Maybe Robert De Niro was busy. That's the best explanation I could come up with for why Brian Cranston -- of Breaking Bad fame -- finds himself playing a father who's trying to protect his daughter (Zoey Deutch) from becoming engaged to a crude jerk (James Franco) in Why Him? , a comedy that turns out to be a Meet the Parents wannabe. In this variation on a formulaic theme, Franco's character not only is inappropriately crass, but he's also a video game inventor who's filthy rich. Cranston's Ned Fleming travels from Michigan with his wife (Megan Mullally) and son (Griffin Gluck) to spend Christmas with their daughter, a student at Stanford. During the visit, they're supposed to meet the daughter's new boyfriend. Dad is surprised to learn that Deutch's Stephanie is spending most of her time at the ostentatiously high-tech home of Franco's Laird Mayhew. Jokes about molecular cuisine at Laird's ultra-modern manse are half funny, and Keegan-Michael Key scores intermittently as Laird's personal assistant. One of the central jokes puts Cranston's character on an electronic toilet, which -- at least for me -- proved emblematic of a comedy that pretty much flushed taste (not to mention anything resembling common sense) down the drain. The heavily tatted Laird is another variation on a total doofus from Franco, a character whose dominant trait seems to be idiocy. A preview audience found all of this funnier than I did. But there's something amiss when the best you can say about a big-screen Christmas comedy is that it's slightly better than the abysmal Christmas Office Party.

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