THE HOUSE (USA/15A/88mins)
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen. Starring Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel.

THE PLOT: When their daughter’s college scholarship is cancelled because of bureaucratic corruption, Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) must find a way to pull the cash together to keep their promise to their beloved daughter. After a trip to Vegas with their recently single friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), Scott, Kate and Frank decide to set up an illegal casino I Frank’s suburban home, as a way to make money fast.
THE VERDICT: ‘The House’ not only reunites Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler for the first time since they appeared together in ‘Blades of Glory’, but it is the directorial debut of screenwriter Andrew Jay Cohen, of ‘Bad Neighbours’ fame. Written by Cohen and his ‘Bad Neighbours’ collaborator Brendan O’Brien, ‘The House’ is a film with a familiar and thin plot, but it soars to comedic heights by teaming Poehler, Ferrell and Mantzoukas up, with Nick Kroll and Rob Huebel backing them up for good measure.
Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas are a dream team on the screen together. Although none of them really get a chance to flesh their roles out more than what the first appear, it is clear that these actors have fun making these suburban characters completely over the top, as the glory and riches that come with an underground casino start to go to their heads. The three bounce off one another well, and it is through their support of one another that ‘The House’ goes from awkward and over the top comedy, to a laugh fest that succeeds through being utterly silly. None of the main cast, nor Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel or Allison Tolman, move very far away from characters that we have seen them play in the past, but the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude to the casting works well, as these actor bounce off one another superbly.
Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien’s screenplay is not, if we are completely honest here, anything terribly original or inspiring. Scott and Kate’s daughter is more of a plot point than a character, and there are times when the pacing feels drawn out and languid, but there are plenty of laughs to be had with the film, and as soon as the comedy turns silly, this is where the film truly comes into its own. Much of the comedy feels improvised by the experienced and clever cast however, and there is plenty of slapstick throughout the film, so it is unclear just how many of the laughs come from the screenplay, and how many come from the cast bringing their own unique talents to the film.
As director, Andrew Jay Cohen does not always manage to keep film’s story – such as it is – moving, but he does pace the jokes well throughout, and keeps the audience laughing just enough so that we do not always wonder where all of this is going to end up. As mentioned, the plot gets more and more ridiculous as time goes on, but Cohen embraces this, and allows the world of the film to support and nurture this for great comedic effect.
In all, ‘The House’ is filled with slapstick and silly laughs throughout; most of which, it seems, come from the excellent teaming up of Poehler, Ferrell and Mantzoukas, who bounce off one another incredibly well, and improvise some of the best moments and lines of the film. The plot, however, is a bit of a mess, and characters are often more like plot points than people, but the sight of Will Ferrell’s giant frame trying to scramble into a small plastic wardrobe almost allows the audience to forget this.

RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The House
4.0Worth A Gamble
  • filmbuff2011

    What if… you could recreate the glitz, glamour and risky hedonism of Las Vegas in your own home? That’s the postage-stamp concept behind The House, a decent if somewhat predictable comedy that bears the sticky fingerprints of Will Ferrell and producer Adam McKay.

    Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) are facing a change in their family circumstances. Their only child Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is moving out and going to college. While that means more freedom for them, it also means that they’ll miss out on quality family time watching The Walking Dead (as you do). They’re relying on a well-deserved scholarship to fund Alex’s pricey college bill. However, local councilor Bob (Nick Kroll) has re-appropriated the funds to pay for a lavish community swimming pool. They drown their sorrows with about-to-be-divorced neighbour Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). They hit upon the idea of running an underground (i.e. illegal) casino in Frank’s house, on the basis that the house always wins. It soon becomes a hit with the locals and the dough comes rolling in for the trio. But Bob starts to suspect that something’s going on in the neighbourhood…

    The House is a safe Hollywood comedy whose only risks extend to the occasional dismemberment or burning body. The script by debut director Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien is admittedly thin, like something that was thought up on a lads beer-and-pizza night in playing cards and watching a football game. It takes a bit more to give the script some oomph. Thankfully, the casting is spot-on. Ferrell is an obvious choice here and he doesn’t disappoint, struggling with separation anxiety from Alex and, er, basic addition problems (Scott’s not a numbers man). Poehler responds likewise with a winning performance, as does Mantzoukas who easily steals the film. They certainly bring the Vegas into The House, with some very funny scenes together.

    The hit-rate on the jokes is quite high actually. That’s a common problem with Hollywood comedies – they’re just not that funny (looking at you, CHiPS). The House succeeds in tickling the funny bone by repeating the same gags but from different angles each time. A late cameo from Jeremy Renner spices things up too – he should do more comedy and less of the brooding. Not all the jokes hit though. Constant bickering between two housewives escalates into a Fight Night special, but it just comes across as lazily-scripted and manipulative. The House didn’t have to be that Vegas about their underground casino. The weaselly Bob is also a predictable plot device just designed as an obstacle rather than an actual adversary to all the fun the other characters are having. However, The House does what it says on the tin and to the point too, not overstaying its welcome. ***

  • Martin

    This movie is meant to come across as fun crazy and wild but all is does is come across to the viewer as being full and nasty. It’s a wafer thin plot that is all there in the clip for the movie. I’ve seen more jokes and fun in a sketch from the fast show.

  • emerb

    Two of the biggest names in comedy – Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, unite for the latest raunchy summer comedy in “The House”. The movie represents Ferrell’s first lead role in a comedy in quite some time and thankfully it’s a welcome return to form. The premise is rather daft – it tells the story of two parents who open an illegal casino in their basement in order to pay for their daughter’s college costs.
    Ferrell and Amy Poehler play Scott and Kate, a cash-strapped couple with an only child, a daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) who is about to start college. When a much-needed scholarship that would have paid the huge tuition fees has been cancelled, they are desperate and will do anything to raise money. Step in the gambling-addicted friend Frank (Mantzoukas) who has a creative way to get rich quick, he gets the brainwave to set up a casino in his living room. It’s not long before the property is transformed into a mini Vegas-style casino complete with
    slot machines, card tables, pool parties, and even a room designated as a “strip club.” As the operation expands, things start to escalate and it’s not long before their violence and shenanigans attracts the attention of the local mob and the authorities.
    “The House” is funny and entertaining and kept me amused throughout. After a slow start, the laughs start to come fast and strong. Admittedly much of it is silly and surreal and it contains many classic goofy Ferrell moments but it has a dependable number of laughs. Poehler and Ferrell have terrific comedy chemistry together and watching them transform from hapless parents into somewhat intimidating villains offers some of the funniest moments in the film. The violence is unexpected too, much of it unexpected, bloody and rather graphic. More than once I had to stop myself and ask – did that really just happen?!
    I’ll admit this is not an instant comedy classic. Not everybody warms to the genre of raunchy comedies, complete with swearing, sexual references, violence, and wacky high-jinks but you get what you expect. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is and beneath it all “The House” is a film with a heart and even has a message to say about parenting and the lengths the average mum and dad will go to for their children. You could do far worse this Summer so I’d recommend
    you give this film a chance, chances are you won’t be disappointed.