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Why Him? Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Why Him? (2016) movie poster Why Him?

Theatrical Release: December 23, 2016 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: John Hamburg / Writers: John Hamburg, Ian Helfer (story & screenplay); Jonah Hill (story)

Cast: James Franco (Laird Mayhew), Bryan Cranston (Ned Fleming), Megan Mullally (Barb Fleming), Zoey Deutch (Stephanie Fleming), Cedric the Entertainer (Lou Dunne), Griffin Gluck (Scotty Fleming), Keegan-Michael Key (Gustav), Zack Pearlman (Kevin Dingle), Adam Devine (Tyson Modell), Richard Blais (Himself), DJ Steve Aoki (Himself), Elon Musk (Himself), Gene Simmons (Himself), Paul Stanley (Himself), Kaley Cuoco (voice of Justine)

Buy Why Him? from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD + Digital HD • Instant Video

In the landmark 1967 comedy-drama Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a young woman shocks her parents by bringing home a fiancι who is African-American.
In the 2016 comedy Why Him?, a young woman shocks her parents by revealing her boyfriend is...an entrepreneur.

Stephanie Fleming (Zoey Deutch), a 22-year-old Stanford student, has always been the apple of her parents' eyes. She's smart and responsible, so it takes Michigan printing executive Ned (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) by surprise that she has a serious boyfriend she has kept secret from them and that the boyfriend is Laird Mayhew (James Franco).

Laird, a college dropout, founded a company that has produced lucrative mobile game apps. He has no filter. The Fleming family, including Stephanie's dorky teenaged brother Scotty (Griffin Gluck), is to spend Christmas in California with her. But Laird wants them to stay in his mansion, where it is revealed Stephanie has been living most of the week.

In "Why Him?", a father (Bryan Cranston) and mother (Megan Mullally) are taken aback by their daughter's straight-shooting entrepreneur boyfriend (James Franco).

Laird makes a disastrous first impression on the Flemings, spouting profanity and revealing a back tattoo of the family taken from their Christmas card, complete with "Happy Holidays." That introduction is enough to see how things will play out here.

Adorned largely with paintings of animals copulating and fitted with such flourishes as a paperless toilet and an artificially intelligent overseer voiced by Kaley Cuoco, Laird's place is one big house of horrors for the Flemings, decent upper middle class Midwesterners who are not prepared for Laird's eccentric, shoot-from-the-hip manner. This joke takes an array of forms, but it never really builds to anything or leads anywhere. That would be fine if the joke was funny most or even some of the time. But despite the raucous reaction from general moviegoers at my theatrical screening, Why Him? rarely displays even a glimmer of wit.

Franco is a charismatic actor, who has succeeded at both comedy and drama over the years. Cranston, though he'll forever be associated with "Breaking Bad" and his booming subsequent movie career is accordingly skewing dark and dramatic, is also no stranger to comedy, having a recurring "Seinfeld" role and the entirety of "Malcolm in the Middle" in his past. But even talented performers can only do so much with subpar material and that is what the two likable leads have here.

Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) and Laird (James Franco) reunite at Christmas and try to patch things up.

For that, we can thank seasoned writer-director John Hamburg (I Love You, Man and one of four who wrote Meet the Parents), less experienced but still qualified co-scribe Ian Helfer (The Oranges), and Jonah Hill, who shares story but not screenplay credit with those two. Comedy is subjective, and on paper Why Him? sounds promising, particularly with those two lead actors attached.
But it's hard to appreciate any idea presented here, from having Laird give Ned an inaccurate "bukkake" definition that will come back to embarrass to having two members of Kiss cameo as themselves in full costume in a big finale that is just as devoid of charm and humor as everything before it.

Released in January, this type of movie might be tolerable in the same way that, say, Just Married was. But opening right before Christmas pit this uninspired comedy against everything from big-budget tentpoles to Oscar season hopefuls. It's counterprogramming, clearly, which might make some business sense, although it does seem odd to open an R-rated comedy at the height of family moviegoing. For critics, though, who at the time were being exposed to the best films the year had to offer on a near-daily basis over the past couple of months, this represents the wrong in cinema to which the good films are offering an agreeable alternative. Such a crass, formulaic piece of schlock featuring two actors who have reached fine heights in both film and television, stands out in a very bad way when being viewed between worthwhile awards contenders and polished spectacle.

Although critics predictably panned the film (though with less passion and disappointment than I have above), Why Him? still managed to have some commercial might, grossing $60 million domestic and $118 M worldwide on a $38 M production budget. Having narrowly preceded Christmas in theaters, the film now hits home video in time for Easter in the Blu-ray combo pack reviewed here as well as 4K Ultra HD and DVD editions.

Why Him? Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.85:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French; BD-only: Portuguese, Thai
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD ($39.99 SRP), DVD + Digital HD ($29.98 SRP), and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Why Him? is a new film from a major studio so it should surprise no one that it looks presentable on Blu-ray Disc. The 1.85:1 picture is sharp and nicely defined, while the 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is everything you expect a new comedy to supply.

The gag reel shows us James Franco being unable to drink from a can without spilling to the amusement of his young castmate Griffin Gluck. Bryan Cranston struggles to get through his toilet scene with Keegan-Michael Key in both the gag reel and "47 Minutes on the Can."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

A sticker on the shrinkwrap touts that Why Him? is loaded with deleted scenes and a gag reel. Indeed, that is just some of its surprisingly robust slate of extras,
which somehow almost all make it to both Blu-ray and the often short-shrifted DVD.

The extras, all HD on Blu-ray, begin with the Why Him? gag reel (9:58), which supplies cast horseplay, from Bryan Cranston's Clint Eastwood impression to James Franco spilling his canned drink.

"47 Minutes on the Can" gives us 6 minutes and 38 seconds of footage from Bryan Cranston's laughter-challenged on-toilet improvisations with Keegan-Michael Key, along with some reflection from Key and director John Hamburg.

"Why Gustav?" (4:23) collects Keegan-Michael Key ad libs and alternate takes. It's not so funny stuff.

"Barb Fleming: America's Mom" (5:44) supplies unused bits featuring Megan Mullally's character.

Celebrity chef Richard Blais tries to reveal a profane funny side in his outtakes short "Richard Blais: Twisted Chef." A deleted scene gives us more of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in their full Kiss regalia.

"Lou the Entertainer" (4:27) applies the same treatment to Cedric the Entertainer, who plays Cranston's coworker.

"Richard Blais: Twisted Chef" (1:46) offers foul-mouthed outtakes from the "Top Chef" subject who cameos as himself.

Next up comes a substantial deleted scenes section consisting of nine scenes (31:19). They include an additional scene with the two Kiss members acting, a family Secret Santa gift exchange, and more holiday party hijinks, from Laird's toast to Ned's showdown with a drone.

An audio commentary by director/co-writer John Hamburg, co-writer Ian Helfer, and editor William Kerr takes the film more seriously than you might suspect. Hamburg leads the conversation with
an earnest discussion of creative and technical decisions made. Much is revealed from how Franco contributed his artwork to how small bits in the script evolved into running gags.

Finally, a gallery supplies about 45 photos, a mix of publicity and behind-the-scenes stills.

The Blu-ray's only exclusive is the original theatrical trailer for Why Him? (2:33), which is a red band preview (though no card precedes it).

Oddly, Fox forgoes the usual Sneak Peek section, offering no trailers for the studio's other current properties on either disc.

The main menu plays clips and score from the film.

The eco-friendly keepcase holds a Digital HD insert alongside the two full-color discs. In an unusual move, the outside slipcover is shrinkwrapped. On it is a sticker which will supply you up to $7.50 towards a movie ticket to see the upcoming Fox comedy Snatched during its first month of release.

Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) doesn't know what his daughter sees in hey boyfriend Laird Mayhew (James Franco) in the comedy "Why Him?"

CLOSING THOUGHTS

One of 2016's worst films, Why Him? squanders talented actors and a potentially funny premise on unimaginative, bottom rung comedy. Fox's Blu-ray combo pack supplies a fine feature presentation and plenty of extras, but I preferred 95% of last year's movies to this one, so none of that can make this disappointment worth your time and money.

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital HD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Office Christmas Party • Youth in Oregon
James Franco: The Interview • This Is the End • Sausage Party | Bryan Cranston: The Infiltrator • Trumbo
Zoey Deutch: Everybody Wants Some!! • Vampire Academy • Beautiful Creatures | Megan Mullally: Kings of Summer
From John Hamburg: I Love You, Man • Zoolander • Zoolander 2 | Story by Jonah Hill: 21 Jump Street
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner • Father of the Bride

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Reviewed April 10, 2017.



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