-The newest from Illumination entertainment and a raunchy Christmas comedy.
Who am I to judge what kids like?
If someone were to ask me about how I felt about Sing, the newest from Illumination Entertainment, I would respond by stating that it’s hard to sit through. It’s not that the film doesn’t have heart or that I don’t appreciate the emphasis on films this year to try to promote music and artistic license. It’s more that I didn’t really find much to enjoy in Sing as an adult. The kids in my theater loved it. I saw it with my girlfriend’s two nephews, and they quite enjoyed it. Many of the kids were dancing to the songs, and boy was the theater packed. The problem was that with great animated movies like Moana or Zootopia from this year, there’s enough substance for the adults to buy in as well. Sing is not that type of movie.
It focuses on a group of misfit singers-to-be, all pursuing other things instead of their dream to sing, such as perennial backup vocalist/porcupine Scarlett Johansson, or stay at home mom/pig Reese Witherspoon, or gang-banger to be/gorilla Taron Edgerton. They all get the chance of a lifetime when failing theater producer Walter Moon (Matthew McConaughey) decides to host a singing competition in his theater. The movie focuses on the best of the best listed above and their preparation for the big show as they still try to balance out their normal lives.
The songs are all hits from 2012 to 2014, probably when the movie was written and started development, so it’s a little funny to have pop music that is slightly dated incorporated with Top 40 songs that have lasted through the last couple of years. All of the characters are fine, although I don’t know why they didn’t just cast real singers rather than either auto-tune the actors or find separate people to sing the songs (I think it was a mixture of both), but in order to have the name recognition, they have a lot of famous people involved here. It’s not from the normal Illumination team; they gave us The Secret Life of Pets earlier this year, which I really liked. Instead, it’s Garth Jennings and a new group, and the animation is fine. It’s nothing particularly special, and the script is nothing particularly special. Overall, your kids may like it. You probably won’t.
Director: Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Son of Rambow)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Edgerton, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, and Tori Kelly
RT Score: 72%
The first thing I’ll say about Why Him? is that critic votes on comedies don’t really mean anything unless the film itself is based on more substance than on just making the audience laugh. For a blockbuster comedy, all that really matters is whether the audience is able to laugh at the jokes and be entertained, so my specific opinion on whether or not I “liked” a mainstream comedy such as this is completely separate from what the audience could feel. In other words, people will ask “what movie should I see this weekend?” and my response of predicting enjoyment and effectiveness of an action movie or a drama is a lot different than a pick for comedy. A comedy can be so subjective, who am I to tell someone that something is not funny? If you look through my reviews of 2016’s larger comedies, movies like Central Intelligence, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Sausage Party, and Keanu didn’t really hit for me, but movies like Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and The Hollars really did. So, when I say that Why Him? is an average comedy with occasional laughs and occasional misses, it’s entirely subjective.
Truthfully, after seeing the trailer, this was one of my most anticipated movies of the whole year. I just thought that being able to mine comedy out of a wacky Franco/Cranston dynamic could be complete gold. To some extent, the film is able to do that, but there are plenty of running gags that miss and plenty of jokes that really don’t land at all. This is a movie that has a nice tone, is easy to watch, and you can chuckle without being offended, but it’s not really a laugh-out-loud, must-see comedy at all.
The story revolves around a father/daughter relationship that’s as good as any could be before being interrupted by the daughter’s new, crazy boyfriend. The father is Bryan Cranston’s Ned, a traditionalist Michigan man who owns a printing press. The crazy boyfriend is James Franco’s Laird, an app manufacturer whose millionaire presence in the tech industry that threatens Ned’s way of life by way of the “screen over paper” trend should be enough to turn Ned off to him. It doesn’t help that he’s loaded with tattoos and a foul mouth. Stuck in the middle of the feuding men in her life is Zoey Deutch’s Stephanie, trying to mend the broken trust with her father and keep her neurotic boyfriend in check. Other family members like Ned’s wife Barb (Megan Mullally) are just along for the ride.
We’ve all seen the “you’re not good enough for my daughter” comedy, which culminated with the 2000 generational classic Meet the Parents. This movie is a basic retread of all the comedy tropes and vulgarities that you would expect from a movie like this. Put this out in late January with less-known actors, and this movie entirely dies with a thud like a ton of other romantic comedies just like it. However, there’s something to say about how hard James Franco and Bryan Cranston work to make this film funny. The script isn’t particularly good, in fact, the way the plot moves forward at the end is so saccharine and tough to swallow that it could’ve used another pass-through. What works, though, is the physical comedy and the rivalry that begins between the two characters. Cranston is a comedy veteran, but Franco’s strange personal life and tabloid escapades make him perfect for the “I don’t want to bring you home to my parents” award. I just wish that Deutch had more to do. It seems like it should be 1/3 her movie, and she is barely included in the events that unfold. She is the entire reason that the two characters are fighting, and we sometimes lose track of why they are fighting and it becomes just personal to the actors. I like Deutch, and I’ve said it a few times after seeing her in movies this year. She will be a star, but this will be an oversight, overall.
Call it what it is…When Franco curses at conservative adults, I laugh. Sure, much of the movie is juvenile, but it’s not too stupid to sit through or too vulgar to share. It’s just enough of a consistent slight chuckle to state that it’s fine for a holiday distraction. Just don’t think too much of it.
Why Him? (2016)
Director: John Hamburg (Along Came Polly, I Love You Man)
Starring: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, and Keegan-Michael Key
RT Score: 41%