While it’s no secret that 2017 was a down year for studio comedies, The House was a surprisingly okay film. This isn’t to say that it’s the best comedy of the year because it’s not but it’s not one of the downright awful films that came in the form of studio comedies this year.
The comedy comes from the screenwriting team that wrote both Neighbors, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Brendan O’Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen. The film serves as the feature directorial debut for Cohen. It didn’t happen but would a Zac Efron cameo have been too much to ask for?
Scott Johansen (Will Ferrell) and his wife, Kate (Amy Poehler), decide to take the advice of their friend, Frank Theodorakis (Jason Mantzoukas), and run a casino out of his home. Their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), gets accepted to Bucknell University but her parents don’t have the money to afford college tuition and thanks to Fox Meadow City Council member Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll), Alex loses out on a scholarship because the city needs have the money in order to build a pool.
The House wasn’t the horrible comedy that many film critics made it out to be, much to Chance the Rapper’s dismay, but there were a lot of fun moments in the film. The time where Scott chops off the finger of Carl Shackler (Steve Zissis) was in the trailer and this moment could have been a missed opportunity. Instead, not only do they play it for laughs but it leads to some serious PTSD for Scott down the line. PTSD is nothing to joke about so they took a hysterical moment and turn it into a traumatic experience for Scott. It’s the right thing to do because one can’t expect to go through this kind of experience for the first time and not experience trauma.
One of the funniest parts of The House was seeing Scott be transformed into”The Butcher,” the guy who collects the money when people are behind in paying. Ferrell all of a sudden becomes that a guy one expects to see in a Martin Scorsese film. Kate, in the meantime, becomes The Burner. This new change in their life also leads to some other spicy changes.
Once Jeremy Renner’s mobster, Tommy Papouli, is introduced, the film takes an interesting turn and becomes all sorts of crazy. Renner hasn’t really done comedy before outside of American Hustle but as the film delves into crime comedy territory, it proves that there’s a lot of potential to be made from Renner’s funny bone.
The biggest surprise perhaps is that the Saturday Night Live veterans have teamed up together in leading roles for the first time. Why this wasn’t done sooner is beyond me but the duo have some great chemistry even as they come from two different improvisational backgrounds. No matter how crazy and fun the two of them get, the film would have gone to splatter if they weren’t able to sell the fact that they’re playing husband and wife. The two of them display amazing chemistry together and Simpkins is able to hold her own with the comedy juggernauts.
The cast of improv veterans is astonishing so it’s it should come as no surprise at how enjoyable the casino comedy is. It reads as a book of who’s who!
In a year in which studio comedies failed on so many levels, The House was surprisingly okay and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Director: Andrew Jay Cohen
Screenplay: Brendan O’Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Jeremy Renner, Allison Tolman, Michaela Watkins, Ryan Simpkins, Jessie Ennis, Rob Huebel, Christina Offley, Rory Scovel, Lennon Parham, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, and Andrea Savage.
Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures, New Line Cinema released The House in theaters on June 30, 2017. It’s now available to rent or buy.