You could be forgiven for getting halfway through The House and be ready for walking out the door. But if you weather the initial shitstorm of writer/director Andrew Jay Cohen’s (Bad Neighbours) latest slapstick/screwball comedy, then it might well pay off for you. The filmmaker has somehow managed to make a film of two, glaringly different halves, as there are some big laughs to be had when the absurdity ratchets up in the last 45 minutes and the comedic violence takes over from the ‘jokes’.
Will Ferrell (Anchorman) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) play a married couple in a well-to-do suburban estate in the US. After an ill-advised trip to Las Vegas with family friend and neighbour Jasin Mantzoukas (The Dictator), the couple manages to completely blow their only daughter’s college fund on some very risky gambling. To try and recoup the lost money, the trio decides to create their own illegal casino in Mantzoukas’ basement. Cue the chaos…
The House really is a painful watch for most of its first half, as the script basically relies on Ferrell and Poehler dropping f-bombs and talking smut in their guise as an everyday American couple. The jokes are lacking, there is absolutely nothing new and the talented duo are doing their by-the-numbers routines that you have seen countless times before. But as we get to the halfway mark and the film finally gets into its swing, the absurdity ratchets up a few gears and a hefty dose of surprisingly brutal, comedic violence saves the viewer from the barrage of painful jokes. Their send-ups of various gangster films are unexpectedly funny, with Martin Scorsese’s Casino, in particular, being heavily lampooned in brutal fashion. The infamous table vice torture scene, here used for comic effect, is a sight to behold. Not for the prudish.
The strong supporting cast, including Nick Kroll (Loving), Allison Tollman (The Gift) and Michaela Watkins (In A World) make do with the relatively weak material but they all get into the swing of things with the more slapstick side in the latter half, Mantzoukas performing the strongest of them all. Jeremy Renner’s cameo as a gang boss was more than a worthy addition and actually got a belly laugh out of me to my amazement. But the overriding feeling from The House, despite the laughs the filmmakers ground out, was that of a waste.
The House is nowhere near the worst film that you’ll watch this year, but it is certainly not a good one either. Cohen has created some very funny moments that garner your attention, especially if you are into your comedic gore/violence type shows, but the first half really does make for painful viewing. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of Ferrell and Poehler and have a thing for absurd humour, then this could be worth a watch. Kev Lovski