Movie Review: “The House”
Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Amy Poehler) are overjoyed when their daughter (Ryan Simpkins) is accepted into a good college. Now the Johansen's are hoping that their daughter wins the town scholarship so that they can afford to send their daughter to college. Their daughter is awarded the scholarship, however the City Councilman (Nick Kroll) has taken all of the money out of the scholarship and put it into the development of an expensive new town pool. The Johansens will be forced deep into debt if they send their daughter to college unless they can find another way to raise the money. That's when the Johansens and their friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), decide to start their own underground casino based out of Frank's house. Now they just have to raise enough money from the casino to pay for four years tuition at an expensive school, but what can go wrong when the house always wins?
The Pros & Cons
Will Ferrell (+5pts)
The Johansen's Contribution (-2pts)
The Butcher (+3pts)
Nick Kroll (-4pts)
Jason Mantzoukas (+5pts)
The Resolution (-3pts)
Pro: Will Ferrell (+5pts)
Take nothing away from Amy Poehler, she is funny in this movie and certainly has her share of comedic moments, but Will Ferrell is the star of this movie. It is what you would expect from a Will Ferrell style comedy. It is ridiculous, it is dumb (in a good way) and, most importantly, it is funny. That being said it is not his best work. There are a few VERY funny moments or scenes in this movie but, for the most part, this movie has a lot of chuckles. If Will Ferrell were not in this film, it would have been quite a bit worse. So if you are a Will Ferrell fan, this movie will work for you.
Con: The Johansen's Contribution (-2pts)
On this surface, audiences won't notice this issue, but if you take a figurative step back you will realize that the Johansen's (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) really bring nothing to the table when it comes to their contributions towards the casino. It is their friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), who does all the work and takes almost all of the real risk. The casino is based out of Frank's house, Frank comes up with the discreet parking/entrance plan to prevent the cops from discovering the casino, Frank does all of the planning to decide what will be in the casino, and Frank buys ALL of the equipment/games/etc. Really, the Johansens show up once the casino is completed and take their "fair" share of the money.
Pro: The Butcher (+3pts)
If you have seen the trailer than you will know this moment is coming. Frank and the Johansens discover that there is someone in their casino who is counting cards. They know they must make an example out of this man or else everyone else will think they can cheat in the casino and get away with it. In the process of trying to intimidate this cheater, an accident happens by the hands of Will Ferrell. The aftermath of this scene includes Will Ferrell getting a new nickname, "The Butcher", and shows how he adopts this new persona to manage his neighbors. This is easily one of the funnier segments of the movie. It is relatively unexpected and had a few big laughs. I worried that "the accident" would be spoiled from the trailers and that it would not work when actually watching the movie. Thankfully, "the accident" was just the beginning of a bigger segment which made for some really fun moments.
Con: Nick Kroll (-4pts)
This character felt pretty unnecessary in this movie which, ultimately, hurt the overall plot. This movie should have been focused on the casino and how three "normal" people try to run and manage that casino. Instead, this movie gives us the City Councilman (Nick Kroll). He is the one who took the money from the scholarship that would have been rewarded to the Johansen's daughter (rather than creating a story in which there was no scholarship in the first place). The movie seems to force this character in as a villain when the movie did not require one. This resulted in a side storyline that is uninteresting when the film could have focused on Frank and the Johansens trying not to get caught, making the police the antagonists, and (most importantly) focusing on the Johansen's storyline.
Pro: Jason Mantzoukas (+5pts)
Jason Mantzoukas shines in the role of Frank. This character keeps the plot moving and Mantzoukas delivers a lot of comedy throughout this entire movie. The character is desperately trying to get back together with his ex-wife. So he thinks making a lot of money from the casino will do the trick. This makes him an unpredictable character since he has lost everything and will resort to anything to win his wife back. This makes him the wild card of the movie. Jason Mantzoukas played the role very well. He captures the pain and the desperation all while nailing the comedy.
Con: The Resolution (-3pts)
The ending to this movie did not really work for me. The resolution of the film is centered around a city councilman (Nick Kroll) that should not have been in the movie and hinges on the sympathy of a local police officer who has spent the duration of the film trying to bust the casino. The whole ending felt way too convenient and did not fit with the premise of the film because it centers around a villain who had no place in the movie.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
This was a pretty average comedy film. Will Ferrell and Jason Mantzoukas do the best they can with these roles and Amy Poehler certainly holds her own in this packed comedy. There are a handful of very funny scenes/segments but, for the most part, this movie is a chucklefest. The film also spends way too much time on the city councilman who was a fairly unnecessary character. Nick Kroll is a good comedic actor but this role hurt the film by taking too much time away from the Johansens and the casino. This film has decent build up but the resolution of the movie reeked of lazy writing as everything seemed to work out way too conveniently for the Johansens.
I think this movie will be entertaining to any Will Ferrell fans and any fans of mindless generic comedies, but if you are someone who is looking for something special (or even just a well-written plot) you should not spend your money on this movie.