Bryan Cranston and James Franco in Why Him? (Photo: Fox)

★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY John Hamburg
STARS James Franco, Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for headlining last year’s superb biopic Trumbo, so it’s a bit disconcerting seeing him sitting on a toilet with no paper at his disposal in a scene from the new comedy Why Him?. Is this meant to signify that the actor is about to flush his career down the commode if he keeps appearing in dreck like this? Hopefully, that won’t be the case; still, this one’s an unfortunate addition to his resume, though he certainly tackles the material with the same conviction he bestowed on Dalton Trumbo (no one can ever accuse him of not being a consummate pro).

Cranston stars as a father who adores his college-age daughter (Zoey Deutch) and is distressed to learn that her boyfriend Laird (James Franco) is a vulgarian with more money than sense. The dad and the dude clash frequently, but there’s no bite to any of this because it’s clear that, beneath the abundant tattoos and an affinity for profanity, Laird is basically an honest, eager-to-please guy. With no tension in the plot, what’s left is a series of gags involving a tea-bagging buffalo, Pitch Perfect‘s Adam Devine flashing his bukkake photos, and a living room flooded with animal urine. Why Him? Why me?

Sing and Dev Patel in Lion (Photos: Sing: Universal; Lion: Weinstein Co.)

Looking for fine family fare with which to end the year? Those with younger kids should check out Sing (★★★ out of four), a lively animated effort about a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who stages a musical competition in a last-ditch effort to save his beloved theater. And those with older kids should head to Lion (★★★ out of four), a heartwarming true-life tale about a young boy (Sunny Pawar) in India who gets separated from his family and eventually adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). It’s only decades later, once he’s a man (Dev Patel), that he embarks on a search to find his birth parents and siblings.

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