The House

I’m feeling uninspired. I’m not sure I can identify the exact problem with this movie. It has a talented cast and a promising premise – and truth be told, it did make me laugh, sporadically. But its squandering of potential deflated my enjoyment of the film.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play parents who love their kid to death and are deeply embarrassed that they can’t afford to send her to her dream college when a town scholarship falls through. Instead of coming clean they decide to open an underground casino with their shadiest friend, who has just been left by his wife in large part due to his gambling addiction.

TELEMMGLPICT000133626218-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqrpfQw2hJyG_yckwxPAr0ggGNY_A2dHyghdflyNWj5P8When The House has the strongest pulse, it’s cutting close to satire: the tragic middle class, the American dream, the panic of empty nesters. But unfortunately it relies too heavily on its stars to do “bits” rather than writing actual characters who could stand up on their own. I don’t know who Ferrell and Poehler were supposed to be as people, and it’s possible they didn’t know either. They just pop up, unformed, clown around, and never even stumble into an arc.

The comedy pinballs from farce to the strangely violent; yes, it’s uneven, but it’s also way darker than it needs to be. It’s trying to be wild and crazy, and adding Jason Mantzoukas to the mix is definitely the right choice as he electrifies every scene he’s in. But it’s not enough. The movie falls flat every time they step away from him, the Ferrell and Poehler characters seeming lost and sending out mixed signals. They seem content within their little bubble, then they rail against, then they profit from it. They pay for their mistakes by taking from their friends and neighbours. It feels unseemly, and it’s hard to root for them. Hectic editing tries to cover for plotting that’s just plain absurd. And the writing’s just lazy. I wasn’t even allowed to turn in a first draft of a seventh grade composition, yet this whole $40M budget movie got made based on a rough draft. A very rough draft.

It feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely laugh-out-loud comedy, but this isn’t it. It cracked me up in a few places, but never without letting me see how hard the actors were working to land the sub-par material. It’s a meh of a movie and easily forgotten.

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19 thoughts on “The House

    1. Jay Post author

      The funniest thing I’ve seen this year is The Big Sick, which is not really a comedy since it’s about a girl in a coma. But it does have its moments.

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  1. Sean

    For being uninspired you nailed this review. It’s not nearly funny enough to get away with having one dimensional “characters” (Will Farrell and Amy Poelher playing their crazy SNL roles you have seen a thousand times) and a half-baked plot.

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  2. J.

    Okay, so, it doesn’t sound too good, but you got me intrigued with “The comedy pinballs from farce to the strangely violent; yes, it’s uneven, but it’s also way darker than it needs to be.” Maybe more intrigued than the movie deserves…

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  3. Christopher

    Seeing the trailers this seemed almost like it would work better as a drama, and I’d like to see both Ferrell and Poehler try drama. Admittedly Stranger Than Fiction, which was billed as Ferrell’s first dramatic role, was very much a meh movie for me, and it didn’t help that Dustin Hoffman seemed to be in it solely to provide some comic relief.
    Of course as a comedy it would risk being even darker and more violent and probably turn into a Scorcese movie.

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  4. calensariel

    Saw the previews and it looked kind of dumb to me. I DID, however, finally get to see Anthropoid, which you reviewed a while back. What an intense movie! I had just read a book that took place in Prague right then. I was excited to run across the movie on Amazon Prime.

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  5. MovieManJackson

    It’s the problem with comedy now. Variety had a really good article about whether the R-rated comedy is essentially dead. http://variety.com/2017/film/news/the-house-rough-night-r-rated-comedies-box-office-1202486209/

    I think a combination of factors play into it, but the fact remains we really haven’t an universally loved comedy box office smash since 22 Jump Street if you think about it. I hope too that a good big budget one comes around. Great post, I agree with all of your thoughts.

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