WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2017)
Director: Andrew Jay Cohen
Starring: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins, Nick Kroll, Jeremy Renner
The house will always win.
What a life. Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) are counting down the days until their beloved daughter Alex (Simpkins) heads to her chosen college and they have their house back to do whatever they please – i.e. sweet, sweet lovin’. The money to pay for the scholarship is coming from the town council’s local program, so everyone’s a winner. That is, until the weasely council leader Bob (Kroll) pulls the program due to “budgetary cuts” leaving the panicked parents with a $50,000 bill.
What to do?
Set up an illegal home casino with your equally ruined mate Frank (Mantzoukas), that’s what! If the house always wins, where’s the risk?
The casino is set up in Frank’s home and gradually becomes a fully-fledged gaming den, complete with swimming pool, comedy club and massage areas – all whilst dodging the attention of the council and the town’s (one) cop, Officer Chandler (Huebel). As the underground word spreads, the casino grows and the money begins to roll in. The endeavour begins to catch the attention of local mobsters and, eventually, the authorities, putting Alex’s chances of her dream scholarship in real trouble.
Director Andrew Jay Cohen’s feature-length debut, The House, brings together the comedic talents of SNL duo Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler once again to work their funny magic. Unfortunately, the writing had other ideas. For a comedy, the movie is really not that funny. Sure, there are a few laughs throughout – a particularly good Bill Murray reference being one – but so many gags fall flat, or it’s clear that everybody’s trying just a bit too hard. Regarding the key beat, the parents realise they don't have enough money to send their daughter to college only when the free ticket has been ripped up? Judging by the house they live in, I find that hard to believe! The comedic idea of starting a casino I have no problem with, I quite like the idea, however where did they get the money to start such a casino? With their friend who’s in the gutter? It’s quickly glossed over. Regarding Frank, there’s a side story regarding his wife who wants a divorce which really adds nothing to the movie. Another subplot - the daughter secretly takes drugs but the subplot is subsequently completely ignored? Sigh. Comedies don’t have to be written with a master’s touch, but well-written comedies clearly exist (The Big Lebowski, Borat, for example) even if the stories inside them are ludicrous.
Far from the heady days of Anchorman, Step Brothers, Elf and Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell has let himself appear in another steaming turd for the sake of a decent pay cheque – his last few movies being Get Hard and Daddy’s Home – and runs the risk of falling into sharing a gutter with Adam Sandler. I think Ferrell is fantastic, but there’s not much to enjoy here. The same goes for Poehler and Mantzoukas…pretty much everyone involved comes away burned. Jeremy Renner appears for a fleeting cameo late on, which is probably the highlight of the movie.
Despite being a movie about gambling and a home casino, there’s a lack of actual gambling scenes in the movie. There’s a few fleeting shots and one scene at the beginning which sets proceedings off, that aside, your gambling impulses will be safe. That key gambling scene makes use of the current trend of slow-motion, and it’s a trend that’s becoming more tedious with every use. The pacing throughout The House is erratic, and the editing is jarring, neither of which does anything for the movie.
It’s not all doom and gloom, as mentioned there are some fun moments throughout – Ferrell becoming “The Butcher” and performing to his reputation plays more to his past character portrayals. There are some good one-liners and visual jokes, but they appear at a premium.
The bloopers were cool though.
2017 hasn’t been a great year for comedy, it’s a genre that requires a much-needed shot in the arm and unfortunately, The House does nothing to give it a boost. It’s a messy, throwaway affair that drops the ball when it comes to comedy’s key element – humour. Even with the talent on show, The House crashes and burns.
Tonight, the house lost.
September 17th 2017