The House, 2017.
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen.
Starring Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Ryan Simpkins, and Jeremy Renner
Forty somethings Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) are proud that their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is going to college. She’s done so well that she’s getting a scholarship from the council to cover her tuition fees – except that it’s pulled due to budget cuts. Neither of them can raise extra money from their employers, but friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) comes up with an idea that could be the answer to their financial problems, as well as his. Open up a casino in his basement.
Saturday Night Live veterans Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler re-team as a suburban married couple in the comedy The House, a funny, if flawed, comedy that showcases the chemistry between the two actors even if the jokes don’t always land.
Ferrell and Poehler star as Scott and Kate Johansen and share some really good back and forth between each other. Together, with their friend Frank, played by Jason Mantzoukas, they begin an underground casino to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. There’s a lot of situational comedy as they go through one problem after another, even attempting to recreate some of the famous gangster movies they’ve seen, notably Martin Scorsese’s Casino.
The comedy flows pretty well with Ferrell and Poehler. Both know when to pull back just enough from the lunacy of their ideas before it gets a bit too out there or stale. Mantzoukas is actually the one who is over the top, acting like a man-child, but he also knows when to reign in this persona, but doesn’t act ‘normal’ nearly as much as Ferrell and Poehler do. He still provided some good laughs though, especially with his constant additions to his homemade casino.
The supporting cast also do well with their roles. Ryan Simpkins does a good job playing her role pretty straight as Scott and Kate’s daughter, holding her own against Ferrell and Poehler’s antics while Nick Kroll makes a suitable antagonist as the obnoxious city counsellor. There’s a nice rotating cast of regulars at the casino, but Lennon Parham and Gillian Vigman take the cake as two feuding soccer moms whose aggression reaches its zenith in one of the film’s more memorable scenes.
Despite the strength of the cast, many of the jokes don’t always land. I’m hard pressed to remember more than a handful that stood out, but many of the jokes just aren’t that memorable compared to some of Ferrell and Poehler’s previous comedies. Each member of the cast does well with what they’re given and tries to make the most of it, but ultimately don’t quite make it. The story itself gives it chances to make more of a mark as the casino keeps changing every few scenes, but after a little while it seems like the jokes set in the casino are on repeat until the third act. Thankfully, though, that’s where The House takes us away from the casino for the climax, giving us a much-needed break from all the gambling and other debauchery.
The special features on the Blu-ray are sparse, but there’s a couple cool things on it. ‘The House: Playing With A Full Deck’ is a 13-minute feature showcasing the cast they assembled and how they all worked together on set, utilizing their varying comedy backgrounds for the film. It’s an interesting look at how they worked together.
‘If You Build The House They Will Come’ is the best feature on the Blu-ray, though. Anyone interested in seeing how sets are built will enjoy this 13-minute feature that shows how the casino was built, beginning from construction in a sound studio and going through the phases of a normal house to full-fledged casino during the shoot. Its interesting and insightful to see how much planning had to be put into the casino’s evolution. It also includes a look at one of the film’s very bloody moments as Scott, Kate and Jason attempt to assert their authority over a card shark.
Also included are some deleted/extended scenes with an alternate opening. It’s an interesting look at what could have been in the film, but after watching it it’s not surprising to see why exactly they were cut, either because of unfunny material or unnecessary padding for the story. The gag reel is pretty entertaining, though, and there is a ‘line-o-rama’ as well, but its pretty much just an extended gag reel going through the various jokes and improv the cast did.
Overall, The House isn’t the funniest film either Will Ferrell or Amy Poehler have made, but it’s still fairly entertaining even if a lot of the jokes don’t stay with you once it’s over. The cast is still fairly strong though and some of the Blu-ray’s features should be intrigue fans of comedy and film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★