It’s time to meet the boyfriend in the new comedy Why Him?. Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally play Ned and Barb Fleming, a married couple who have been invited by their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) to meet her boyfriend Laird (James Franco), some kind of internet billionaire who’s just as eccentric as Hollywood thinks such characters are.
Stephanie and her family visit Laird at his palatial estate and find him as confusing as she finds him charming and lovable. Laird tells Ned he intends to ask Stephanie to marry him, but Ned isn’t hearing it and at best won’t approve. So Laird sets out to win him and the rest of the family over, with predictably zany results.
There were two posters that tried to set up the choice Stephanie is making, so one features Deutch with Cranston as he embraces her in a protective fatherly hug and one with Franco as he embraces her in a more…suggestive manner. Both feature the copy “Of all the guys his daughter could have chosen…” which is meant to lead into the title at the bottom.
The theatrical poster is just a variation on that, this time with Cranston putting his body between that of Deutch and Franco, positioning that is meant to convey the basic story conceit. The same copy is here and all of them are sporting the same outfits as on the other posters, so it was obviously part of the same shoot. And it features the same plain white background and lack of any other design elements, meaning they’re not even trying to add any visual pizazz to this element of the campaign.
The first trailer, a red-band edition, starts out with Ned setting things up by narrating how a father’s supposed to protect and nurture his baby girl until she’s ready to face the world on her own. Then he meets her boyfriend Laird, a hedonistic billionaire with no filter between his brain and mouth. There’s one uncomfortable situation after another until Laird says he intends to propose to Stephie, asking for Ned’s blessing and promising to win him over between now and then to secure it. Ned is, of course, not on board with any of this and promised to kibosh those plans.
It’s funny enough. We’ve seen this movie before in a number of iterations and they’re all generally pleasant enough. The main selling point here is the conflict between Cranston and Franco, which looks like it works mainly because of what a pro Cranston is and what a “go all in on whatever I’m doing” actor Franco is. So they’re both committed in their own way to the premise, it looks like, which is what will sell the movie more than anything else.
The second red-band trailer lays out much the same story, of Ned talking about how precious his baby girl is. That sets up the trip to meet Laird, who’s again presented as someone with no filter. We get the general idea that he’s going propose to Stephie on Christmas but Ned, of course, if not on board with this plan or anything else Laird has in mind for her.
There’s a bunch of new jokes here, usually involving a party in the main room and the mishaps inherent in having a big tank of water with a taxidermied moose in it. So the point here is to keep selling it as an outrageous comedy, though there’s a bit more of a sense of the pranks Ned and Laird engage in to one-up each other here.
Online and Social
A banner featuring the key art is at the top of the official website, following Fox’s usual site design guidelines. Below that there’s a prompt to watch the trailer as well as links to the movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.
Keep moving down the page and you can first buy tickets — either individually or through Atom Tickets — and t hen watch the green band trailer, though the other trailers are nowhere to be found on the site.
There’s the usual “About” section that has a brief synopsis and a list of cast and crew. The “Poster” section just has one of the versions, the one with all three characters on it.
The “Gallery” has a half-dozen production stills to view and download. Then you can sign up for email updates about the movie and from Fox in general. The last section of the site is the usual “Social Updates” that pull in posts from the movie’s profiles.
There’s also “Laird’s Tattoo Shop” that asks you to take or upload a picture that you can then mess around with a bit as it becomes a tattoo on Laird’s back.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
A number of TV spots were run that basically played like shorter versions of the trailer, laying out the outlines of the story and showing what audiences can expect in terms of humor and characters. Cranston’s dad is shown as a curmudgeon, Franco as an eccentric lunatic and so on.
There was also a special spot featuring Cranston and Franco that was launched to promote Movember, the annual event where men don’t shave their facial hair to raise money for cancer research. More promo videos featuring the two of them talking to the camera followed.
Media and Publicity
Cranston made a bunch of TV and press appearances and did interviews where he talked about dipping into R-rated humor, how he would react to someone like Laird coming to date his daughter and so on. Nothing too huge and most times the conversation quickly turned from this movie to topics like Breaking Bad. Likewise Franco’s appearances often involved asking him about Freaks & Geeks and other previous projects.
The campaign really tries to amp up the raunchy humor of the story, making it clear at every possible turn that there are gross jokes throughout the story. But what it doesn’t do very well is actually sell a funny movie. You have to find a steady diet of these kinds of things funny in order to find the movie attractive at all, otherwise there’s nothing much here to latch on to. The posters are bland, the trailers look like they’re devoid of any visual style and so on.
The main attraction is the interplay between Cranston and Franco and that’s everywhere in the campaign. That’s not enough, though, to actually make the case to see the movie. More than that, the story basically comes down to a father wanting to own the sexuality of his daughter. That’s not a new story — it’s actually incredibly old — but it’s still surprising to see it so clearly on display in the marketing of a major motion picture in 2016.