It’s not hugely memorable, but it’s still great fun.
If you think The House is going to be something radically new from Will Ferrell, you’re going to disappointed. But, if you like, or even love, the likes of Step Brothers or Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, The Others Guys or Old School, then you’ll probably lap this up. This isn’t classic Ferrell but it’s as close to it as we’ve been for a while and it is damn good fun.
A lot of comedies in recent years have felt like a string of decent set-pieces that are strung together by other stuff, but The House hangs together well and feels pretty cohesive even when some moments seem a bit too by the numbers. A lot of that is thanks to a blend of sharp writing, some impeccable puerile and gross-out humor, some deft comedy turns and some other nice touches including a cameo that is, while not classic, a fun touch.
The film follows Scott and Kate Johansen (Ferrell and Amy Poehler respectively) whose plan for their daughter’s college fund goes up in smoke after a series of unfortunate events. They can’t bring themselves to tell her they no longer have the money to send her to school. They team up with their neighbors to start an illegal casino to try and make all the money they need – as the movie’s tagline says, ‘If you can’t beat The House, be The House.’ The Johansen’s partner in crime is Frank Theodorakis, played by Jason Mantzoukas, a gambling addict and general mess with a broken marriage and desperate need for something to his give his life purpose again. Naturally, hilarity and craziness ensue as things start to get wild and out of hand.
Running alongside this main storyline is a subplot about a local politician, played by Nick Kroll, who gets suspicious when people stop showing at the council meetings and gives local cop Officer Chandler, played by Rob Huebel, the job of finding out what’s going on in their town. There’s also the obligatory family comedy and drama that you’d expect from a movie like this but is more of a MacGuffin than anything substantial, which is kind of a shame because, when allowed to breath, it does provide a handful of the film’s best laughs. As it stands, it does a bit of a disservice to Ryan Simpkins who plays the daughter, Alex.
Considering that they fit together like hand-in-glove, and are friends in real life, it’s amazing this is the first time Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have headlined a comedy movie together. Sure, they’ve both appeared in the same movie on a number of occasions previously (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie and Blades of Glory) and overlapped on two seasons of Saturday Night Live, but this is something different and it just feels very natural and very right. If there isn’t a sequel to The House then Hollywood should seriously start thinking about how to team them up again soon.
(Oh, be sure to make sure you stay for the blooper reel when the credits roll.)