The House
dir Andrew Jay Cohen
scr Brendan O'Brien, Andrew Jay Cohen
prd Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Andrew Jay Cohen, Brendan O'Brien, Joe Drake, Jessica Elbaum, Nathan Kahane
with Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Allison Tolman, Rob Huebel, Ryan Simpkins, Michaela Watkins, Lennon Parham, Andrea Savage, Cedric Yarbrough, Jeremy Renner
release US/UK 30.Jun.17
17/US New Line 1h28
The House
We're in the money: Ferrell, Poehler and Mantzoukas

kroll tolman renner
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The House The set-up for this silly comedy is astute and well-played, finding observant humour in a situation that has real implications for society. And then the movie just abandons everything for a wildly over-the-top series of manic set-pieces that are loud and obnoxious rather than genuinely funny. Which leaves the adept cast struggling to make it watchable.

In a sleepy suburb, Scott and Kate (Ferrell and Poehler) are dreading the fact that they'll have an empty nest when their beloved daughter Alex (Simpkins) goes off to university. Then her scholarship is diverted by Mayor Bob (Kroll) to fund a town swimming pool. So Scott and Kate team up with their stoner pal Frank (Mantzoukas) to open an illegal casino, rationalising that the house always wins. Of course, as the money begins coming in, their plan quickly spirals into a full-on criminal empire. And a local cop (Huebel) starts sniffing around.

Instead of playing with the premise and themes, the fact that sending a child to college brings crippling debt is simply accepted here, as is the idea that it's easy to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks. Casually ignoring all of that, the filmmakers send the characters into increasingly frantic spoofery, stretching every joke far beyond the breaking point, like a Saturday Night Live sketch that stubbornly refuses to end. So moments when a gag hits its mark become increasingly rare.

Poehler just about holds the movie together with her likeable clowning around as a sunshiny woman with very dark edges. Ferrell has more of a challenge balancing Scott's corny optimism with his sudden shifts into his alter-ego thug "The Butcher". Intriguingly, Mantzoukas manages to turn around his character's annoying early scenes to become mildly amusing later on. And the range of side characters flail around for all their worth, sometimes managing to elicit a smile.

But smiles are all this movie can muster. The humour is so forced that it rarely lands as intended, and the plot is so overblown that it abandons neighbourhood comedy, passing through satire to inane slapstick. There's the germ of a good idea, and it's visible now and then in the more deliberate pastiche scenes poking fun at sentimental comedies. So while this movie might be decent escapism for a Friday night, it will be completely forgotten by Saturday morning.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 29.Jun.17

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