[Screen It]

"THE HOUSE"
(2017) (Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler) (R)


Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A suburban mom and dad open up an illegal neighborhood casino for a month to try and raise enough money to pay for their daughter's college education.
PLOT:
Scott (WILL FERRELL) and Kate (AMY POEHLER) are good and loving parents to recent high-school graduate, Alex (RYAN SIMPKINS). Alex is accepted into Bucknell University, and all concerned believed she was going to get a full scholarship from their local town council. But council member Bob Schaefer (NICK KROLL) is corrupt and has used the funds for a flashy community pool and on expensive gifts and meals for fellow official Dawn (ALLISON TOLMAN), who he's having an affair with.

Meanwhile, Scott and Kate's good friend, Frank (JASON MANTZOUKAS), is going through a divorce due to his gambling and pornography addictions. His wife, Raina (MICHAELA WATKINS), has left him and taken most of the furniture. With his house in foreclosure, he and Scott and Kate get the brilliant idea to turn his near-empty house into an underground casino, complete with slot machines, table games, a bar, a comedy club, and more. At first, they appeal mostly to their friends and neighbors: rival soccer moms Martha (LENNON PARHAM) and Laura (ANDREA SAVAGE); good-natured salesman Reggie (CEDRIC YARBROUGH); Dawn's clueless husband, Joe (RORY SCOVEL); and so forth.

Eventually, word gets out and people come from all over, bringing their vices like cocaine and marijuana and overall debauchery. Kate develops a pot addiction, Scott takes on an enforcer persona, and local cop Officer Chandler (ROB HUEBEL) starts to get suspicious Eventually, they draw the ire of some real organized criminals who want in on the action.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The new Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy, "The House," wants to be "Risky Business" crossed with "Old School." But instead of it being "Risky School," it's just "Old Business." Every single performer in this film has been funnier elsewhere. Much, much funnier. And to see them in something this forced, this botched is just a depressing experience. The film was not screened for reviewers. And at under 90 minutes, it seems to have been given up on in the editing booth, too.

This is a shame, as the film has a potentially great comic premise. Ferrell and Poehler play a suburban dad and mom, whose darling daughter (Ryan Simpkins) has been accepted into college. One problem. She didn't get a scholarship, and they have no money to pay the hefty tuition and room and board. So, they get the bright idea to open up a casino in the house of their friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), a man whose wife has left him and taken most of the furniture.

Hijinks will surely ensue, right? Well, they do. But there's a real meanness to a lot of the gags that short-circuits a lot of the laughs. We're talking about an underground fight club in which a soccer mom squares off against her carpool rival. Potentially funny? Absolutely. But the fact that the fight ends up being brutal causes you to cringe more than laugh. Similarly, there's a running gag in which Ferrell's Scott Johansen begins to fashion himself an enforcer and chops people's fingers and hands off with an ax. It's not the hard-core slapstick that's off-putting. It's the buckets of blood that spew each time he does this. There's also a scene where a man is burned alive that we're supposed to chuckle at, but it totally falls flat.

And then there is just the general dumbness of the characters. It's one thing to be white-bread, suburbia dumb about the potential pitfalls of running an illegal gambling operation. It's another to be stupid to the point where one would not be able to function in the world. When Scott and wife Kate go to the bank and swear they have $401,000 in an account, the bank manager has to explain to them that their account is a 401k, and it has had no contributions. When Scott and Kate get their first tuition bill and it's for $50,000, he exclaims, "$50 MILLION?!"

The film needed to be a lot more focused for the premise to work. For instance, "Risky Business" worked because Tom Cruise's teenager turned his parents' house into a brothel for one big night. Scott and Kate turn Frank's house into a casino for an entire month! One night or even a weekend, they might have been able to get away with it. A month? It strains believability. And co-writer and director Andrew Jay Cohen leaves the trio a tremendous out by shoe-horning in a town council corruption subplot that seems lifted from an entirely other film altogether.

I usually dig Ferrell's usual man-child innocence shtick and Poehler's go-for-broke zaniness. But they seem to be forced to prop up a bad script with scene after scene where Cohen clearly turned the camera on them and told them to "Just riff!" As evidenced from the outtakes that play over the end credits, Cohen didn't even use some of their best ad libs. There are even some weird "Huh?" moments like Ferrell being referred to as a 40-year-old (he's 50); like Alexandra Daddario of "Baywatch" and "San Andreas" being listed in the credits, but appearing nowhere in the movie; and Barack Obama still being President. All of this makes one wonder, "Was this movie filmed a while ago, and it's just been on the shelf?"

Ugh. If you go see "The House," folks, you are gambling with your good movie money. And it's a bet you are going to lose. This rates no better than a 3 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed June 29, 2017 / Posted June 30, 2017


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