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. They are proud of their daughter, but they are hoping that she wins the town scholarship, as they do not exactly have enough money to send their daughter to college without it. It comes with great relief when she gets the scholarship, but that relief is short lived. The City Councilman (Nick Kroll) has taken all of the money out of the scholarship and has put it into the development of an expensive new town pool.
Scott and Kate are outraged, as they will be forced deep into debt without the money from the scholarship. That's when the parents and their friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) decide to start their own underground casino, based out of Frank's house. If everything goes well, the casino could easily pay for all four years of their daughter's tuition. However, the casino is not exactly legal, and it has gained some unwanted attention.
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, as I thought she was funny in this movie and certainly had her share of comedic moments. That being said, Will Ferrell was definitely the star of this movie, something that may not come as much of a surprise. The movie was honestly what you would expect from a Will Ferrell style comedy. It was ridiculous, it was dumb (in a good way), and most importantly, it was funny.
Was this movie Will Ferrell's best? Not by a long shot. There were not many big laughs, but there were plenty of chuckle-worthy moments and there were at least a few great comedic moments that had me laughing pretty hard. Will Ferrell added a lot of that, and I think if he were not in this movie, it would have been a lot less effective than it was. If you are not a fan of Will Ferrell, then I doubt this movie will work for you, nor will it win you over on him, but I am a fan of his and it worked for me.
Con: The Johansen's Contribution (-2pts)
On the surface, audiences may not even notice this issue, and I definitely did not think it was very severe, but if you take a step back you will realize that the Johansens (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) really brought nothing to the table when it came to their contributions into the casino. It was their friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), who really did all the work and it was Frank who took on almost all of the real risk. The casino was based out of Frank's house, Frank came up with the idea, Frank came up with the ways to try to keep the police from discovering the casino, Frank did all of the planning to decide what would be in the casino, and Frank bought all of the equipment, games, and supplies. Really all the Johansens did was show up once the casino was completed and took their "fair" share of the profits. It just seemed a little odd to me that the main characters were really irrelevant in terms of their involvement in the entire premise of the movie, and the filmmakers could have taken the entire, far-fetched setup out of the movie. They could have just kept it simple and made this a story about a guy, Frank, who wanted to run an underground casino.
Pro: The Butcher (+3pts)
If you have seen the trailer than you will be expecting this movie, but it still ended up being really funny while I was watching the movie. Frank and the Johansens ran into the expected problem of having someone cheat within their casino. They knew they had to make an example out of this man or else everyone else would think they could cheat and get away with it. I am not going to spoil what came next, but I thought it was really funny. In trying to resolve their problem, Scott ends up acquiring the nickname of "The Butcher", and he really leaned into this persona and Kate was right there with him. The trailers kind of showed what happened, but I did not think the trailers ruined this bit at all. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler were great in the scenes centered around this bit and it was one of the funnier parts of this movie.
Con: Nick Kroll (-4pts)
This character felt pretty unnecessary in this movie, and this ended up hurting the overall plot. The filmmakers should have kept the focus on the casino and how the crazy things that could have happened there. Instead, the filmmakers gave us the City Councilman (Nick Kroll). He was really just an antagonist for the sake of having an antagonist.
This was the guy who took the money from the scholarship that would have been awarded to the Johansen's daughter. The filmmakers could have taken this character out, taken the whole idea of the scholarship out, and could have just made the casino the antagonist in the main character's story. By forcing Nick Kroll's character in here, the filmmakers took focus away from what made this movie funny. Nick Kroll was not bad in the role, but I thought the role itself was unnecessary and thought that this story would have been better off without it.
Pro: Jason Mantzoukas (+5pts)
Jason Mantzoukas shined in the role of Frank. This character kept the plot moving and Jason Mantzoukas delivered a lot of comedy throughout this entire movie. The character was desperately trying to get back together with his ex-wife, so he thought making a lot of money from the casino would help him achieve that goal. This made him an unpredictable character, since his desperation meant he was willing to stop at nothing. Jason Mantzoukas was the wild-card, comedic character and he played the role very well. He captured the pain and the desperation that his character needed in order to make his extreme measures believable, but he did this while nailing his comedic moments in a really entertaining way.
Con: The Resolution (-3pts)
The ending to this movie did not really work for me. The resolution of the story was centered around a city councilman that should not have been in the movie and hinged on the sympathy of a local police officer who had spent the duration of the movie trying to bust the casino. In other words, the sympathetic moment just seemed out of character and out of nowhere. The whole ending just felt way too convenient. It felt like the what the story was progressing toward, but it felt like the filmmakers realized that their movie was running a little long, and just sort of pulled the trigger on the climax of the story before they had really set everything up to do so. Maybe I am way off on that assumption, but based on how the ending went, this was what it felt like to me.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
This was a pretty average comedy if I am being totally honest. Will Ferrell and Jason Mantzoukas did the best they could with these roles and Amy Poehler certainly held her own in this packed comedy. There were a handful of very funny scenes and bits, but for the most part, this movie was a chuckle-fest at best, with a few really funny moments every so often. The filmmakers also spent way too much time focusing on the city councilman who was a fairly unnecessary character. Nick Kroll is a good comedic actor, but I thought this character ultimately hurt the movie by taking too much focus away from the Johansens and the casino. The rising action of the movie was decent, but I thought the filmmakers pulled the trigger on the climax before the story was really ready for it. At the end of the day, I think this movie will be entertaining to any Will Ferrell fans and any fans of comedies like his, but if you are someone who is looking for something special then this movie is not it.