I’m assuming on paper The House must have looked like a match made in heaven.
Two comedy powerhouses teaming up with a writer/director that had written both Bad Neighbours movies? Familiar and popular supporting actors like Jason Mantzoukas, Rob Huebel and Nick Kroll? And keeping the budget low at…
Wait… This movie cost FORTY MILLION DOLLARS?!?!? ARE YOU SH**ING ME!!! DID THEY USE REAL COCAINE???
Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell & Amy Poehler) are over the moon when their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is accepted into the prestigious Bucknell University.
Having placed their entire hopes on a scholarship provided by their home town, Scott and Kate are devastated when said scholarship is withdrawn by Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll), a corrupt city councilman.
Desperate, the couple soon agree to an idea suggested by their best friend, Frank Theodorakis (Jason Mantzoukas): Open a Casino.
Inviting all their neighbors and friends, the money for Alex’s college tuition soon starts rolling in. But how long can such an illegal and dangerous job last?
I had read somewhere that this film had been sitting on Warner Brothers’ shelf for nearly a year, and boy, you can tell! With jokes about Obama as President and several references to Season Four of The Walking Dead, it’s clear that this comedy was a product of its time. Problem is that “time” was somewhere in the middle of 2015.
Though they may have worked together on other comedy films and Saturday Night Live, it’s still quite the surprise that this is the first time Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have headlined a movie together. Their relationship is a surprisingly touching aspect as they bounce off each with reckless abandon, much like I would assume their personalities do in real life.
But the scene-stealer award has to be given to Mantzoukas in his role as the compulsive gambler trying to win back his ex-wife. Crazy-eyed and borderline insane, Mantzoukas clearly knew that a weak script like The House needed as much energy and panache as humanly possible. And man, does he deliver!
In fact, all the scenes set on the casino floor are a cut above the rest. From the hastily assembled fight club to the one-man-audience comedy show, each scene is so heightened and nonsensical, it’s hard not to get caught up in the proceedings.
But unfortunately, outside of these scenes the film takes a nosedive. Indeed, the basic premise and its onscreen portrayal are somewhat flawed as The House tries to lend itself as a satire of financial despair; similar to what 2005’s Fun With Dick and Jane tried to do.
The problem with both films is that they try to elicit audience sympathy for people who seem to live rather outlandish and upper-class lifestyles. While a certain amount of this can be put down to a Hollywood lens of life; there are nonetheless moments where you want to scream at the morons with expensive clothes, posh cars and high-priced homes, as they complain about their financial situation!
As the film progresses, the fallout from the casino divides the story threads in two; one of which is how they deal with the encroaching mob, while the other covers a connection with a town council conspiracy. Whilst one of these threads is stronger than the other; director Andrew Jay Cohen completely fails to blend said threads into a satisfying ending. And considering he’s also the writer, that just makes his failure all the more saddening.
The House is not an insulting or offensive comedy. Rather it’s so much worse by being just plain boring. With the exception of Mantzoukas’ performance, this ends up being a completely wasted opportunity from people that should have known better.
Photo Credits: Warner Brothers, Charcoal Corral, Splitsider