By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Happy long Fourth of July weekend! Those heading to the cinema for some summer movie fun may see a new comedy from the writer of Neighbors starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler and think “well, that’s a safe bet!”
See what I did there?
Unfortunately a safer bet would be staying home and watching pretty much any other movie starring either of the two leads because The House craps out. And if you don’t understand gambling lingo, The House is just plain crap.
Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) are upper middle class suburbanites getting ready to send their only child/“best friend” Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to her dream school, Bucknell University. After Alex’s scholarship unexpectedly falls through, Scott and Kate scramble to try to figure out another way to come up with the tuition.
Their wacky! friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) is also going through a rough time. His wife (Michaela Watkins) recently left him and he is facing foreclosure on the big, now empty home they once shared. After Scott, Kate, and Frank take a short trip to Vegas and lose big, they hatch a plan to turn Frank’s house into an underground casino. If the house always wins, why not be the house?
It’s pretty impressive how despite a clever concept and a cast of some of the most reliable comedic actors working today, just how not funny this movie is. I don’t mean “not funny” in oh, I chuckled a few times, maybe worth a rental for background noise while folding laundry kind of way. I mean just not funny at all at any time throughout the entire thing. I didn’t laugh or even almost-laugh once.
To be nice, I’ll raise a glass to Jeremy Renner’s cameo.
Adlibbing in comedies is a lot like CGI in sci-fi: it works best in small doses to add to the final product, not when it is the entire product. It also is most effective when it is seamless.
I wouldn’t be surprised if every other page in the screenplay for The House is just the character’s name followed by “adlib here” with the rest blank. It’s incredibly lazy and no one seems to be trying very hard. In keeping with the gambling metaphors, it’s a lot like the actors are slot machines: pull after pull, never hitting, maybe getting a quarter back every now and then.
But I guess when the scripted “jokes” include teenage girls discussing when they plan to get date-raped, the writers were hoping the mere presence of Ferrell, Poehler, and Mantzoukas (along with other established improv comedy vets like Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, and Cedric Yarbrough. I’d also mention Michaela Watkins here but she is completely wasted. Hopefully someday she will get a role worthy of her talent.) would be enough to bring some laughs. It isn’t.
Minimal effort! Easy paycheck!
The only time this movie got any kind of reaction out of me was an unexpected bit of over-the-top bloodshed. And that reaction was a slight wince.
And then it happens several more times, getting more and more garish (and GWARish). It’s stupid and comes off as a last-ditch desperate attempt at humor as well as a means to secure an R-rating, along with countless “fucks” and drug use, as is par for the course these days in comedies. zzzzzz
This movie is one of those cringefests about stupid dumm-dumms making stupid dumm-dumm decisions over and over. It starts with the Vegas trip (well, you could say it starts way before the Vegas trip with the parents not bothering to save any money for their daughter’s college education, despite appearing to be pretty well off with a nice home in a neighborhood where people have enough money to gamble away hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I digress). They miraculously get on a winning streak at the craps table and unbelievably get thisclose to making enough to pay for Alex’s entire education. Do they take the money–which would easily solve their tuition dilemma, at least in the short term—or, do they continue to stupidly and predictably let it ride until they lose it all? I’ll give you one guess.
Their stupid dumm-dumm decisions just get stupider from there and we care less and less about these stupid dumm-dumm people (which wasn’t a whole lot to begin with).
This is a huge problem because the characters never seem to be real people—and that’s before they morph into Casino spoofs (Amy of course, doing her “badass gangster lady” persona that she’s required to do at least once in every film). Even in a high-concept, absurd farce, there has to be some degree of believability and likability to the characters. Mantzoukas comes closest of the three main actors. Ferrell and Poehler are just Ferrell and Poehler phoning it in like a 12:45AM SNL sketch.
The funniest thing to come out of The House is the story about Mariah Carey’s ill-fated (and cancelled) cameo.
You’re better off going to the nearest casino and betting your movie ticket money on roulette. You’ll probably lose it, but at least it won’t take an excruciating hour and a half.
The House (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every bottle of Stella Artois
Take a Drink: whenever a film or TV show is spoofed
Take a Drink: “HILARIOUS” EXCESSIVE GORE!
Take a Drink: for every slow-motion walk to a rap song
Take a Drink: every time Will Ferrell’s character has trouble with numbers
Take a Drink: when someone says “The Butcher”
Do a Shot: after you leave the theater and wonder why you didn’t see Baby Driver instead