After losing their daughter’s college fund, two parents (Will Ferrel and Amy Poehler), along with their gambling addicted friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), decide to open up their own illegal casino in Frank’s basement in an effort to make some easy money.
Ever since The Hangover became a hit there’s been a huge resurgence in R rated studio comedies. For the most part they’re pretty forgettable, towing the line of what you’d pretty much expect from a quick cash grab film but every once in a while you get a weird, little gem that slips through the cracks (Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping being a recent example). The House, the latest comedy from Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, is a strange beast, it doesn’t know if it’s a lazy studio cash grab comedy or a weird and funny satire film.
With the most basic of storylines, parents losing their daughter’s college fund decide to [insert joke premise here], The House endeavours to do something a little bit different than you would expect, it attempts to satirise big, broad studio comedies. The film works overtime to point out the ridiculous nature of these type of movies, utilising their tropes and accentuating them to a ridiculous level even including corrupt government officials, boozy housewives and a bumbling police officer just for good measure. It’s something of a welcome change and works well to skewer an oversaturated and tired genre. The only problem is, it doesn’t maintain.
I’m not sure what happened with The House but as the film progresses the odd moments of satire and overblown tropes begin to slowly drop away and instead give way to the usual brand of easy, lowbrow comedy and unexpected violence that normally populate these standard studio comedies. It’s a shame since those odd moments of mockery were what made the first half of the film so enjoyable. It may be due to studio notes, too much improv being left in or maybe I’m just reading into the film too much but regardless The House either doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to do or doesn’t have the balls to maintain this for it’s entire running time.
It’s not all bad though as a who’s who of modern comedy provide amazing supporting roles helping to elevate a rather subdued Ferrell and Poehler. Nick Kroll reaches almost cartoonish levels as the corrupt government official trying to bring the casino down while Rob Huebel, Lennon Parham and Rory Scovel all provide quick and entertaining laughs in their minor roles. However it’s Jason Mantzoukas as Frank, Poehler and Ferrell's degenerate friend, who steals the film. From the first second he is on screen he commands the audience’s attention and his unique brand of humour is what provides the majority of the film’s laughs.
The House is by no means a great movie but it does try it’s best to entertain. It shines when it’s self-aware, leaning on genre tropes and creating great comedic moments that lampoon the stereotypical comedies it unfortunately ends up becoming.
5.5 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan.