Updated: Feb 4, 2020
A married couple realizes they cannot afford to send their daughter to college. So, with the assistance of their irresponsible best friend, they start their own illegal underground casino.
Take this concept, attach Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as the married couple and Jason Mantzoukas as the friend, then add a supporting cast full of comedians and skilled comedic actors such as Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, Allison Tolman, Rory Scovel, Kyle Kinane and Michaela Watkins. You have a hilarious, can’t miss comedy, right?
Not exactly. You also need a coherent script with well-defined characters and situations. Unfortunately for viewers of The House, you will not find that here.
The House aimlessly bounces from one pointless scene to another with little to no plot to connect them together. Characters go through major personality changes with very little motivation. Even at a scant eighty minutes (not including the unfunny outtakes over the end credits), the film feels heavily padded. It’s barely a movie. It’s like the filmmakers decided they didn’t need a solid story or believable characters once this cast signed on. They were very, very wrong.
This is the first film directed by Andrew Jay Cohen. It is the fourth film he and his writing partner, Brendan O’Brien, have written together (the others being the Neighbors films and 2016’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates). The only one of those I have seen is the first Neighbors film, which was only okay, but at least it featured fully developed characters with understandable motivations. Based on this movie, they seem to have forgotten how important those things are, even in a hard-R comedy.
The House is just a barrage of raunchy jokes, most of which are unfunny because the characters are so inconsistent. Is Scott (Will Ferrell) a loving suburban Dad or an impulsive, and incredibly stupid, risk-taker? Is Kate (Amy Poehler) a responsible Mom or a crazy, flame-torch wielding, pot-head? I’ve seen the movie and I have no idea. They go back and forth (sometimes within the same scene) depending on the joke. It’s like they did whatever they thought was funny regardless of whether or not it makes sense for a given scene. It gave me whiplash as a viewer and sucked any potential humor out of the film. There are a handful of funny lines, all throw-aways from the funny people in the cast. None of the humor comes from the plot; probably because there isn’t one.
I will give the filmmakers credit for one thing: the Unnecessary Emotional Conclusion that plagues a lot of raunchy comedies was completely avoided here. In part, it is because there is no real emotion connection between any of the characters in the film. But still, kudos.
If for nothing else, The House is useful as a warning for future comedy filmmakers. A comedy is more than the sum of its cast’s comedic skills. If you take a bunch of funny people and strand them in a film without a solid script, they are just as helpless as if you did the same thing to a much less funny cast. The House is a decent concept and talented cast, but pretty much nothing else.
1 out of 5
Will Ferrell as Scott Johansen
Amy Poehler as Kate Johansen
Jason Mantzoukas as Frank
Ryan Simpkins as Alex Johansen
Nick Kroll as Bob
Allison Tolman as Dawn
Rob Huebel as Officer Chandler
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen
Written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien