‘The House’ Review
Starring Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Jeremy Renner, Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Ryan Simpkins, Rob Huebel, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, Andrea Savage, Lennon Parham, Michaela Watkins
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen
Written by Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O’Brien
Director of Photography by Jas Shelton
It’s undeniable to say that WIll Ferrell and Amy Poehler aren’t funny comedic actors. Since their time on Saturday Night Live, both have proven their comedic with appearances on TV shows, movies, and live events. Then, why is it so perplexing that their latest film –– The House –– is so painfully unfunny? Boasting an entire cast full of comedians from the likes of Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel, Rory Scovel, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, Andrea Savage, Lennon Parham, and the three leads, The House manages to pull off the feat of not inducing laughter and maintains a constant of boredom.
The Plot and Sterile Cast
When Scott and Kate are told their town’s scholarship fund has been revoked to help build a town pool, they –– along with their divorced, gambling addict friend Frank –– open an illegal casino to send their daughter to college.
Scott and Kate are boring characters made only slightly less boring with Ferrell’s and Poehler’s comedic chops. There is nothing particularly different about these characters and it’s become ever more apparent Ferrell has run out characters to play this far in his career. The blame also falls on director Andrew Jay Cohen, but more on him later.
Jason Mantzoukas feels restrained. Matter of fact, there are troves of actors that feel restrained to service the leads of the film. Restraining the comedic talent for a film that is filled to the brim with comic actors makes The House feel sterilized.
The House carries an R rating but fails to utilize its more mature rating to any great effect. Simply cursing, or adding ‘fuck’ in the middle of words and phrases doesn’t immediately turn every line into comedy gold. It’s a lazy form of comedy that may only be found funny to eleven and twelve-year-olds.
Cohen seems to follow in the footsteps of Nicholas Stoller’s and Judd Apatow’s propensity for allowing their actors to improvise on-set. However, both of those directors allow improvisation to accompany scenes and story threads and are not just whatever joke comes to mind that day of shooting. Apatow even mentioned, on his appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast, when filming a scene, he’ll allow improv that would better serve the scene and film multiple takes to prevent stale jokes when it comes time to edit months down the line.
Cohen, this being his directorial debut, fails at this. Most jokes never land and some are wholly out of place to fit the context of the scene. This also plays into the restraint felt on the actors; Ferrell, in particular, is boring providing nothing by way of comical relief in a film desperately needing a remedy for comedic expiation.
The premise itself is funny –– though not really –– but The House is unsure what direction to take the film in. At first, it’s a film about running a casino in a suburban neighborhood, then it involves the mafia and a kidnapping plot that feel tacked on for the sake of being tacked on, and then we have the subplot about the corrupt city councilman that forcefully weaves itself into the main plot. Jeremy Renner’s appearance in the film is minute, only lasting three scenes and existing to service a running amputation gag.
Foreclose This House
The House is not a funny film; it’s the equivalent of listening to your painfully unfunny uncle trying to make you laugh for 90 minutes. If you truly want to watch a comedy starring both Ferrell and Poehler, just watch 2007’s Blades of Glory.