Not long ago, Will Ferrell appeared with Amy Poehler in a movie called The House. They played parents with a dirty little secret: they couldn’t afford to send their only daughter to college. So instead of coming clean, or having her take out student loans, they started up an illegal casino.
Drunk Parents is a very similar premise, and could also have been called The House, although instead of a casino, Frank (Alec Baldwin) and Nancy (Salma Hayek) think smaller, and less effective. First it’s a yard sale, during which they lament their spendy ways and consume a lot of very expensive wine, but don’t actually sell anything because what would the neighbours think. And one neighbour in particular, Jason (Ben Platt) has a direct line to their daughter Rachel, who has only been at college for 24 hours or so at this point. So then they try to extort more money out of their neighbour Nigel, who has already been generous enough to pay them for watching his home while he’s away. But then their drunkenness inspires an even wackier scheme. They’re going to rent out Nigel’s house. On Craigslist. What could go wrong?
Well, aside from everything. First a sex offender (Jim Gaffigan) moves in. They “solve” that problem by trading with him: he moves into their home, and they into Nigel’s. How does that solve the problem you ask? Well, it doesn’t. But it does create some more! Next it’s an outright thief who empties the house from top to bottom, although his truck full of stolen furniture eventually becomes a nice place to crash when the couple faces homelessness. Which is where Will Ferrell comes in because yes, he’s in this one too, and he lights himself on fire. You may recall that in The House, it’s Jeremy Renner who gets set on fire. So there continue to be slight, slight differences.
Alec Baldwin was the weak link in the film – not that he was bad, but that the comedy came from everyone else. Jim Gaffigan is one of my favourite comedians ever, so it’s no surprise that even as a sexual deviant he had me laughing. I was, however, surprised by Salma Hayek. She does things in this movie I had no idea she could do. A grocery store scene with a $4 zucchini is a particular highlight. I think. Is it good or is it just surprising?
Which still doesn’t mean this movie is good. Neither the script nor the direction will impress. And obviously the story’s a little bit borrowed (well, sort of: The House came out in 2017; Drunk Parents came out this year but was filmed in 2016…which is never a good sign). It’s stale, and some of the actors are better at working with crusty material than others. And you can’t even watch it drunk and hope the beer goggles improve it: nothing can improve it. I paid to rent this thing, and even though that’s just $4, that might be a worse financial transgression than what led to this wealthy couple’s downfall in the first place (which is what, exactly – job loss? bad investments? too many espresso makers? – the script doesn’t even bother). If you’re prepared to navigate the bad in order to find a few funny landmarks, be my guest. But wait until it’s free on Netflix. At least that way you can still respect yourself in the morning.