TL;DR – One of the funnier films I have seen this year, a great example of what happens when fools rush in when angels dare to tread.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
What would you do to avoid crushing your daughter’s dreams to go to college, how far will you go? That is the basic premise behind The House, in this case referring to the fact that in casinos ‘The House’ always wins. So can they make this truly silly premise work, all will it crash and burn, well let’s take a look.
To set the scene, Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) are a couple living in the suburbia, of what I want to say was upstate New York. Now their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is ready to go to college, which thankfully has been paid for by the local town council because Alex won a scholarship. This all sounds fantastic, so of course a spanner has to get thrown in there somewhere, so of course, the town runs out of funds, and the scholarship disappears. So what do you when it all falls apart, well the obvious thing is you start up an underground gambling den in the house of your soon to be divorced friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), it all makes perfect sense. You know The House is one of a growing number of films that kind of makes me happy that I don’t live in America, because like Breaking Bad I’m sure there are people out there going, ‘Yep, that’s a logical choice to pay for tertiary education’. So the basic premise is that people jump into something a bit seedy, a bit illegal and soon quickly find that they are in way over their heads, but they keep on digging. Now this is not a new set-up at all, and you’ve probably see a movie similar to this before, but for me what makes a film like this work or not, is the characters, and this is one of The House’s strengths.
Now when you hire Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as your leads, you know you have a solid base for your film, and they nail it. They are so wrapped up in not disappointing Alex they both become enablers for each other as they fall deeper into this world. You know it could be so easy to phone a performance like this in, just go through the motions, but it really feels like they are given their all here. As well as this, they have a great rapport with each other, they make banter look easy and effortless, which sells that they have been a couple for a long time. Part why this all works is that you get to clearly see their slow, to sometimes quick descent into the world they are ill prepared for, filled with drugs, and some occasional accidental violence. The rest of the supporting cast is fun to watch, and it probably helps that there are a lot of Parks and Rec alumni floating around the place. Nick Kroll is perfect as the power-obsessed town councillor Tom, who is also a little dodgy in his own right, and Jason Mantzoukas is perfectly cast here because he gets to bring his particular brand of slightly off hinged performance that we see in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Now, this is a film brought to us by the team of Brendan O’Brien & Andrew Jay Cohen and I’ve been a bit mixed on their work in the past, because I just don’t think their films have connected with me yet. Bad Neighbours had a lot of good aspects to it, but it got weighed down by its tone, especially Bad Neighbours 2, and I didn’t really find any redeeming qualities in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. However, here they found the right balance and I think part of that is because this is the first time they have been able to write and direct. So this leads to some really cool shots, a big stand out for me was right at the start when they are in Las Vegas. There are these shots as the camera follows the dice as they bounce across the table, and it is really well done, to the point where you’re rooting for them to get that next four even though part of you has to know that it won’t happen, because if they did the rest of the movie wouldn’t happen.
Is it a perfect film no, as the film goes on and the secret casino becomes more elaborate, it does start to stretch, if not break the suspension of disbelief that nobody in authority could cotton on to what’s going on, I mean the deliveries alone, as well as the loss of $100,000s of dollars from the local economy, would be sending up red flags everywhere. Also the last act post the big incident, feels a little tacked on, and probably could have been resolved a bit better.
In the end, I think I might have liked The House more than some of the people I have talked to about it, I don’t know why, maybe it was the showing I saw it at, or maybe I just really needed a good laugh this week. Either way, I do have to say I had fun here, I laughed all throughout the film, and really enjoyed the absurdist humour. So do we recommend The House, yes, though only in you don’t mind every second word being F@$%, other than that you should have fun, or you could go watch that one episode of Community which pretty much does the same thing.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you watched The House?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The House
Directed by – Andrew Jay Cohen
Written by – Brendan O’Brien & Andrew Jay Cohen
Music by – Andrew Feltenstein & John Nau
Cinematography by – Jas Shelton
Edited by – Evan Henke & Mike Sale
Starring – Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Ryan Simpkins, Michaela Watkins, Cedric Yarbrough, Andrea Savage, Lennon Parham, Allison Tolman, Rob Huebel & Jeremy Renner.
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R