The House

the house-rev The House  (2017)    Warner Bros./Comedy    RT: 88 minutes    Rated R (language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence, brief nudity)    Director: Andrew Jay Cohen    Screenplay: Brendan O’Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen    Music: Andrew Feltenstein and John Nau    Cinematography: Jas Shelton    Release date: June 30, 2017 (US)    Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Ryan Simpkins, Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Rob Huebel, Christina Offley, Jessie Ennis, Rory Scovel, Lennon Parham, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, Michaela Watkins, Gillian Vigman, Andy Buckley, Steve Zissis, Jeremy Renner.

Rating: halfstar1star-empty1star-empty1star-empty1 

 The MPAA ought to establish a special rating for movies like The House. It should be rated PU; it’s a huge piece of s--t! It’s a one-joke movie where the one joke isn’t funny. The House is supremely unfunny. It might have helped a little if it had an actual script rather than a weak-to-begin-with premise on which the writers hang a bunch of half-baked ideas. Literally everything that could have gone wrong with The House does. It’s no wonder the studio didn’t screen it in advance.

 the houseFor starters, I’m not a Will Ferrell fan. I don’t understand his appeal, never have. He’s made a few good movies but, for the most part, I can’t stand the guy. I like Amy Poehler a little bit better meaning I have a higher tolerance for her. She’s at her best when working with her bff Tina Fey. She has absolutely no chemistry with Ferrell in The House. It’s like the director threw together two random SNL alumni and figured there’d be instant magic. By that logic, why not team up Chris Kattan and Rachel Dratch? They’re just as incapable of making something out of a nothing script. I’m sure they work cheaper than Ferrell and Poehler too.

 My first question- and I have many- is how a smart kid like Alex (Simpkins, 2015’s Anguish) can even be related to two people of very limited intelligence like Scott and Kate Johansen (Ferrell and Poehler). At least I think she’s supposed to be smart. She wears glasses and has just been accepted to prestigious Bucknell University. She appears to be the adult of the house as well. Mom and Dad are blithering idiots with no concept of money management. Next question, how is it they didn’t save for their daughter’s college education? They appear to be well-off financially even though it’s unclear what either of them do for a living. In an especially unfunny running gag, Scott has a phobia about numbers. The scholarship they were counting on falls through after a weaselly city councilman (Kroll, Captain Underpants) diverts the money to a fund for a lavish community pool. Out of options, they hatch a scheme with their gambling-addicted friend Frank (Mantzoukas, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) to open an illegal casino in the near-empty home he used to share with now-estranged wife Raina (Watkins, Enough Said). Since the house always wins, they should be able to save up the money in a month’s time.

 Question, how is it that everybody in town knows about the casino except Alex (and the police)? Isn’t she the least bit suspicious her parents suddenly have to work until 3am every night for the next month? But yeah, all the townspeople show up to unknowingly fund the girl’s college education by gambling it away. And of course, things spiral out of control quickly. Without any build-up whatsoever, the casino turns into a den of depravity with a spa that features hand-jobs and a fight club where soccer moms in yoga pants beat each other’s heads in. There’s also no build-up to the extreme character shifts assigned to Scott and Kate. After a bloody incident with a cheater, Scott takes on the persona of a vicious, axe-wielding gangster called “The Butcher” while Kate starts smoking pot and playing with fire.

 Isn’t it odd that the only cop onto their scheme is a dim bulb (Huebel, Baywatch) who makes Barney Fife look like Sherlock Holmes? He also seems to be the town’s only cop making the town of Fox Meadow an ideal haven for criminals of all types. Speaking of which, the casino eventually attracts the attention of real gangsters whose leader is played by Jeremy Renner (The Avengers) in an all-too-brief cameo role. His ultimate fate is the only and only time I cracked a half-smile during The House.

 First-time director Andrew Jay Cohen, who co-wrote The House with Brendan O’Brien, goes for cheap laughs rather than explore relatable ideas like impending empty nest syndrome and the poor state of our economy. At one time, it was guaranteed that our kids would go to college, build careers and establish better lives for themselves. Now it’s a big question mark. And when they leave, what will the parents do with all the free time they now have? And now that they’re alone with each other for the first time in nearly two decades, do they still know each other? Have they drifted apart? These are things a more intelligent movie would examine. The House is NOT that movie. Well, what can you expect from the guys behind the two Neighbors movies?

 The House doesn’t have a narrative. It’s a series of gags that barely hang together. Cohen cuts from one scenario to the next briskly in hopes that the audience doesn’t notice the many inconsistencies in character and situation. Other bits, like the affair between the councilman and a married financial advisor (Tolman, Krampus), go absolutely nowhere. There’s no momentum to the movie. The characters and plot don’t evolve in logical ways. Every joke, every scene lands with a dull thud. Most of the characters are extremely unlikable except Alex who has no personality really. She spends almost the entire movie with a vacant look on her face. Her flat line readings are no help. The movie’s only glimmer of light (a faint one at that) is Mantzoukas who reminds me of Gerrit Graham. He’s a born wild man. He’s the only character I didn’t want to strangle.

 The House is terrible. It’s badly written and poorly directed. It’s not even mildly amusing. It’s crude, mean-spirited and moronic. I don’t find anything funny about a teenage girl assaulted not once, but twice by Ferrell’s character. The House is a colossal waste of time, talent and space. Even the outtakes at the end aren’t funny. If anything, they show that they’re just as bad as what made it into the movie. The movie isn’t just unfunny, it’s painfully unfunny. It made me hurt physically and mentally. I could literally feel IQ points slipping away. The House doesn’t win and neither does anybody who opts to see this big steaming turd of a movie. My final thought, don’t go in The House

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