Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The House

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  The House always wins...and, in this case, the audience is kinda the losers. (I hate myself for this stupid pun)

The House – 3 out of 5

I’m a big fan of Jason Mantzoukas.  The dude constantly cracks me up on one of my favorite podcasts How Did This Get Made? and every time I hear about him popping in on another podcast or a TV show or movie, I make sure to tune in and check it out.  The dude is just hilarious and I’ve always found myself wishing that he had more mainstream attention and was getting starring roles in films.  Well, The House gave that to me and, I’ll be honest, he’s the reason I spent the money to see this in the theaters because I otherwise would have waited.

                                                                                                                     Warner Bros. Pictures
At the very least, I won the bet that Mantzoukas was going to be hilarious.

Suburban couple Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Amy Poehler) think they are set to send their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to college but when the money they planned on getting falls through they find themselves at their wits end.  After taking a trip to Vegas with their friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they all devise a plan to start their own casino in Frank’s house.  Pretty soon, the entire neighborhood is in on the action but an irate city council member (Nick Kroll), a dedicated police officer (Rob Huebel), and a devious crime lord (Jeremy Renner) might be out to upset the sweet underground operation they are running.

                                                                                                                        Warner Bros. Pictures
What I wouldn't give to be able to do this with money...I'd probably pay
a lot of money to it.

The trailer for this film did make me laugh but when I started reading the reviews, I saw they weren’t so hot.  However, comedy and horror are two genres that tend to be more subjective than all the others and tend to lean more drastically in various directions with their reviews from critics.  What’s funny to one person might be awful to someone else so I pretty much take comedy reviews with a grain of salt.  Overall, The House isn’t a terrible comedy because it definitely has its moments that had my chuckling and even cracking up but it’s not the most memorable thing I’ve seen and actually sorta feels like a comedy from a bygone era.

                                                                                                                        Warner Bros. Pictures
I like Ferrell but he's essentially Frank the Tank's cousin in this one.

The strongest aspect this film has comes in the form of Jason Mantzoukas. Without a doubt, he shines ridiculously bright with his character of Frank and masters the art of making him both endearing and completely over-the-top out there.  We meet the man after he’s lost his wife and about to lose his house to his gambling addiction and he seems like he might be a terrible scumbag but the arc we see him take is one where he is completely dedicated to the casino he started and is using that to get his life back in order and get his wife back.  This dynamic is delivered perfectly by Mantzoukas and he is able to make the character endearing and charming but also hilarious when the more extreme comedic moments occur and the more wilder aspects arrive.  From a comedic standpoint, Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler almost feel like they are the supporting players to the standout Frank and this flip seems to work quite well often in the movie but it’s a bit of a drag because the Johansens are intended to be the main stars.

When it concerns the rest of the cast, no one is really performing poorly.  Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are fine and have their share of genuinely funny moments.  Additionally, there is a whole host of supporting players—people like Cedric Yarbrough and Kyle Kinane to name two—who all have very humorous and memorable moments.  Rob Huebel also is very funny as Officer Chandler and Nick Kroll has some amusing moments with Allison Tolman as members of the city council.  What really hurt the comedy in this film for me, however, is the fact the film feels a bit like leftovers from a time when films like Old School were popular.  In theory, this film about average people starting up a casino should work in the way some average guys started a frat in Old School but the film and story end up feeling very generic and are hampered by some cliché humor that often felt predictable.  Even worse, the film throws in a lot of the insult gags that have become synonymous thanks to Judd Apatow movies.  These jokes can and have worked but they have become so prevalent that it pretty much made The House feel like a Paint-by-Numbers comedy that had very little originality working for it.

                                                                                                                      Warner Bros. Pictures
It's a shame that this was so weak because there was so much proven talent in it.

The final aspect that really held this film back for me was the central conflict of the story.  The idea of parents forced to operate an illegal casino to pay for their daughter’s college education is a fine idea and one that would make you believe that the daughter would actually be a character but The House proved otherwise.  Alex is barely in the film and acts more as a catalyst to get the casino up and running and then is barely in the feature after that.  She’ll sporadically show up for a moment or two but she is, essentially, a plot device and isn’t even a character.  Even worse, the conflict is resolved terribly and very rapidly.  I won’t reveal it because of Spoilers but the way the Johansens get out of the trouble the casino put them into felt very lazy and like it was the first draft of the final act of the film.

                                                                                                                         Warner Bros. Pictures
Looks like the cover to a 90s alt band album.

The House has its moments of hilarity and spends most of its time being carried by Jason Mantzoukas but it is hampered greatly by a weakly crafted plot and a central conflict that feels greatly mishandled.  A big part of me believes that had this film been produced and released ten years ago, it probably would have been right for the times but, as it is, it just feels like a generic comedy that is attempting to copy other films that has come before it and it results in a feature that is too predictable. 

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