After a promising start which elicits a few chuckles, Why Him? descends into a broadly unappealing spectacle of gross-out humour and forced sentimentality.
The combination of crudeness and soppiness is a familiar trope in the world of comedy, and is expertly carried off in the likes of Knocked Up, but Why Him? fails to make us invest in any of the characters enough to elicit any sort of emotional response.
Not even the combined efforts of the very talented James Franco, Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally can save this film, although they put in a commendable effort.
The premise covers ground familiarly trodden in Meet the Parents, which director John Hamburg co-wrote. Here, Midwestern straight-laced dad Ned (Cranston) and amiable mum Barb (Mullally) are headed to meet their wholesome daughter Stephanie's (Zoey Deutch) boyfriend for the first time over the festive period.
Enter, Laird (Franco) the tattooed, drop-crotch pants wearing, foul-mouthed, sexually charged, over-familiar boyfriend of any parent's worst nightmares. Franco doesn't hold back in his enthusiastic portrayal, upon which most of the film's funniest moments hang.
The clash between Ned and Laird is the film's central focus, as Laird tries to ingratiate himself into the family to varying degrees of success, from getting their faces tattooed on his back, installing a bowling alley with murals of Ned's face painted on the walls and feeding them some hilariously pretentious meals from his personal chef, specialising in the most cutting-edge molecular gastronomy.
This leads to a few amusing moments, but Hamburg's insistence on dragging out embarrassing scenes for comedic effect leads to toe-curlingly prolonged set-pieces which the audience is forced to endure rather than enjoy. The bottom of the barrel is well and truly scraped as dead moose genitalia, pleasure-giving toilets and a particularly cringeworthy sex scene are all wheeled out for cheap laughs.
The crassness could be forgiven if the plot and script were better, but Why Him? is forced to rely on the considerable charms of its cast to eke any humour out of the proceedings.
Franco's obnoxious, faux new-age Silicon Valley tech millionaire is eminently watchable, if a little one-note, while Cranston is good but underused as the straight man. Mullaly does well to survive some resoundingly awful scenes through her highly expressive expressions and razor sharp comedic timing.
Ultimately even the combination of their charms can do little to save the lacklustre script and jokes that fall wide of the mark.
Why him? More like Why Me?