THE HOUSE is as generic and listless as its title. The talents of many comedy pros are wasted in this film. There is so much potential here that goes untapped that it feels like a missed opportunity.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are Scott and Kate Johansen. They are the proud parents of their high achieving daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins). Alex won a college scholarship from the city and she was hoping to attend Bucknell University. But the world comes crashing down for the family when slimy City Hall councilman Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll) announces that the city can’t pay for the scholarship. Instead the city is going to build a luxurious pool complex in its stead with an impressive food court to boot.
This forces the couple to come up with ways to make money to pay for her tuition. They look for loans, raise at work, a return to work and everything else under the sun. Nothing seems to going their way. Meanwhile their friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) is going through his own difficulties. He has a nasty gambling problem and his wife Raina (Michaela Watkins) has left him. His house is virtually barren after she had taken much of the furniture. This is a bleak time for all involved.
Frank then comes up with an idea to turn his house into a casino. He would run it with Scott and Kate. They planned on doing this for a month to make enough money to send Alex to college and to stop the foreclosure on Frank’s house. At first the casino is rudimentary with a few tables not all the bells and whistles of a regular casino. This soon changes as the film progresses. The added perks of a pool club, massage parlor and other amenities are there to bring people in.
So you see this has the makings of a fun flick with top notch comedians showing off their talents. It never comes to that though. The characters are cardboard. The story honestly never gets any momentum at all. For a movie about a casino, there are few scenes where you see the people actually gambling. That seems like that would be a perfect thing to showcase and bring out the personalities of various characters. The deleted, reworked and extended scenes have some of this action in there, but they were cut out for unknown reasons. There are just some baffling choices done by the filmmakers here.
I’ve seen Will Ferrell do manic many times over where he essentially assumes another character altogether. Think of Frank the Tank in “Old School”. Here he becomes The Butcher after an unfortunate incident with a wise guy who is counting cards. This is essentially an actor just doing his greatest hits for the thousandth time. We’ve seen it before and witnessing Will bark out orders, act crazy or fall into a crate doesn’t hold the same appeal as it once did. Amy Poehler becomes The Burner who enjoys the prospect of burning people and who partakes in the weed a bit too much. This looks good on paper, but falls completely flat on the screen. And will we ever stop showing elderly women who curse up a storm. That has played out years ago.
THE HOUSE just doesn’t work. It barely makes it to an hour and 20 minutes leaving precious material on the cutting room floor. You can usually tell when a director doesn’t feel completely comfortable with their material when they put bloopers and flubs at the end of the movie. That almost always feels like a desperate attempt to get cheap laughs and make you forget what you saw previously. It doesn’t work here.
Video: The house does come alive with each makeover that happens during the film. The colors do pop from the screen.
Audio: The sound was generally solid. You could hear the dialogue quite clearly even with the commotion in some of the scenes.
The House: Playing with a Loaded Deck (12:41): Will and Amy discuss working together. The filmmakers go over the casting and the story. Other actors chime in on their roles.
If you Build the House, They will Come: (13:43): The production design is talked about. There is also a discussion on the prosthetics and the fight choreography.
Deleted Scenes (15:43): There are 11 scenes in all. They include a new opening, more scenes with the supporting characters, a scene detailing Frank after they open the casino, a scene with Will and Amy in their casino characters and a scene with the local sheriff.
Extended/Alternate Scenes (1:19:34): There are 33 scenes in all that are extended or reworked in some way. Some of these scenes are sorely needed in the final product.
Gag Reel (9:57): This is basically improvisation and flubbed lines.
Line-O-Rama (8:41): They show a scene done with different lines in succession.