03rd Nov2017

‘The House’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Jeremy Renner, Allison Tolman, Michaela Watkins, Ryan Simpkins, Jessie Ennis, Rob Huebel, Christina Offley, Rory Scovel, Lennon Parham, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, Andrea Savage | Written by Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien | Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen

the-house-art

When Scott and Kate Johansen’s daughter gets into the college of her dreams it’s cause for celebration. That is, until Scott and Kate (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) learn that the scholarship they were counting on didn’t come through, and they’re now on the hook for tuition they can’t begin to afford. With the help of their friend and neighbour Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) – also in need of a major payday — they decide to open an illegal casino in Frank’s house, risking everything together on a Vegas-style bacchanal where money flows, inhibitions are checked at the door, and all bets are off…

I’ll be honest, everyone knows what to expect from a Will Ferrell movie, and The House does nothing to exceed those expectations. It does does however supply some ridiculous belly laughs and some gross-out gags that need to be seen to be believed – probably some of the most extreme “gags” in Will Ferrell’s filmic oeuvre. And that, as you can probably guess, is saying a LOT. Yet for all the over the top gags, The House follows a familiar story format, so familair in fact that, if you substituted Poehler and Mantzoukas for a couple of the cast from Ferrell’s former hit Old School, this could pass as a something of sequel.

Both films feature characters and plots that subvert the suburban everyday – whereas Old School had Ferrell and co. setting up a frat, here it’s a casino. Old School saw Ferrell’s “Frank the Tank” abandon his straight-laced married life to return to his hard-drinking, hard-partying ways; The House has Ferrell’s similarly meek, mathematically-challenged father embrace his inner gangster, running the suburban casino as if it was a Vegas casino at the height of the mob era.

Where The House does differ is in it’s nastiness. For all it’s potty-mouth gross-out gags, Old School never went as dark as this film, never featured drag-out knock-down fist fights between suburbanites, the outcome bet on by their neighbours. The House does. And that’s only the tip of this dark humour iceberg. However the sheer ridiculousness of said nastiness is what provides this film with it’s laugh-out-loud humour. It’s an odd dichotomy. Yet it’s not just Ferrell, Poehelr and Mantoukas that take it a step too far. Everyone in this film, bar perhaps the Johansen’s daughter, does terrible things; in fact the entire cast is filled with selfish folk doing selfish things.

Even though the Johansen’s start out with good intentions, raising money for their daughter after the town’s mayor reneges of the annual scholarship; they soon embrace their dark side, intent on almost robbing their fellow neighbours through the casino. Yet the townsfolk are no better… Their selfishness coming to the fore through sheer greed. Surprisingly, whereas most films have a deliniation between right and wrong, here there’s only shades of grey. Yes, the town’s mayor is morally and politcally corrupt and kicks off this entire farce but in the grand scheme of things his behaviour is less troublesome than Ferrell and Mantzoukas’ – at least he doesn’t physically harm anyone! So grey is this films morality that there’s no real comeupance for anyone come the conclusion either. There’s just winners and losers.

Whether this film is a winner or loser depends on you. The House is available on iTunes, DVD and Blu-ray now.

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