By Christian DiMartino
In Vegas, it is said that the house always wins. However, The House proves that statement truly false.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are so likable, it would be difficult for me to not show up to one of their films. Hence why I showed up to The House, despite the warning signs. What were the warning signs? Well…
- The film didn’t screen in time for critics, usually a sign that the studio is keeping it from them for as long as possible.
- When the reviews finally arrived, they were quite terrible.
- On my way to the theatre, it started pouring it down, and to further, a trailer flipped over, leaving me in traffic for nearly an hour. It was as if God was telling me, “Christian, don’t do this to yourself.”
I should have listened.
The House is a terrible film, and a curiously terrible film at that. It’s a depressing debacle; a painfully long 90 minutes of great, funny talents doing awful, unfunny things. With some terrible comedies, I notice what I refer to as “dead air,” where it feels as if the material is either desperate, or failing to come alive, and the dead air was pretty present fairly early on here. You get the sense that the players here are trying to wake this movie up, but it is pretty difficult to awaken a corpse.
The House will pretty much leave you puzzled from the getgo. Its premise, or what there is of it, feels slapped together, and underdeveloped. Ferrell and Poehler, play Scott and Kate Johanson, a seemingly loving couple who also deeply care for their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins). They live in a weird little village called Fox Meadow, which rewards a scholarship to a resident every year. This year, Alex is to be that resident. However, Bob (Nick Kroll), a mayor figure, decides at one of the town hall meetings (which the whole town is forced to attend) that he is going to cancel the scholarship, and instead build a town pool.
First off, what kind of town rewards a scholarship? Also, who holds town hall meetings? And why is the whole town there? Also, it appears as if there is only one police officer in this entire town. Where’s the backup? Whatever, moving on.
As it turns out, Kate and Scott have set aside no money for Alex’s college, leaving them pretty much in the dust. Afraid of upsetting their daughter, they panic. It is a trip to Vegas with their gambling addict friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) that awakens their “genius” plan. And man, the way this idea is hatched is so laughably underdeveloped, I felt as if a bit of footage had been accidentally deleted. Actually I sensed that a few times here. But basically, after playing a game in Vegas, the trio has a discussion about how “the house” always wins. Within an instant, one of them says, “What if we were the house?”
There is no time for a revelation. No time for debate or argument, and a second later, they begin hatching a plan to open up a casino in Frank’s house. Yet what might be even more jarring is how weirdly these characters behave once they open the casino. Not just how weird, but how quick. They turn into completely different people; bloodthirsty, angry, drug fueled. Where did this come from?
Everything moves so fast in The House that it feels as if they wanted to get the hell out of their too. Every “plot development” is barely developed at all. There are ideas here, and some of them probably sounded funny on paper. But on screen they never really come alive.
The House doesn’t work as a movie, and it might have had a bit of leeway if it worked as a comedy. But it doesn’t work as a comedy either. There are a few “ha” moments, but it barely even rises past that, and it doesn’t help that there is barely a believable second in the entire thing. The premise itself would never work in real life, because wouldn’t you think that someone would file, like, a noise complaint or something? And the conclusion, as predicted, is such a preposterous movie ending, you find yourself questioning the actor’s dignity.
The film in general though is weirdly violent and often reeks of desperation. I’ve come to the conclusion that if a film features an end credit bloopers sequence, it’s only there to show us that the actors, despite their hardships, have had somewhat of a fun time. Good for them. I’m not buying.