In theory, with a cast including Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, in a movie directed by Andrew Jay Cohen, you would expect ‘The House’ to be the epitome of humour. That is exactly what I expected- to enjoy gold of comedy, perhaps similar to that of ‘Neighbours’ (directed by Andrew as well). But, the revenue generated has only been $26 million worldwide since its release on 29th June 2017. Now, I am no math genius (not as bad as the character Ferrell plays), but I can still tell you that for a Warner Bros movie with a cast decently strong, you would expect much better. There are a couple of reasons why this movie is, unfortunately, a letdown and not even good enough to be one of those which you watch on a Thursday night, where you leave your brain and logic behind, to just have a good laugh after a week of hard work.
To really understand why this movie is such a disappointment, let’s look at the premise first. Ferrell and Poehler play Scott and Kate Johansen, a couple who at first seem like the typical, mature parents of a 17 year old, and almost 20 minutes in the movie, things take a drastic turn. They live in a spacious home with their teenage daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), who has just been accepted at her dream university, Bucknell University. Although the Johansens seem decently affluent, for some reason they never set aside any money for her college education and despite their well-off status, it is unclear what they do for a living. Thus, they rely on the annual scholarship the town awards, except this year the councilman Bob (played by Nick Kroll), takes the scholarship money away under the shield that he is using it to fund the biggest pool the community will have access to, when in reality, he squanders it on buying gifts to keep his secret affair going. So now, to fund their daughter’s university education, they do the typical- no, not get a higher paid job, no, not even try selling their house and moving into a smaller one, obviously they go for the most plain and in the face solution: start a casino in the basement of Frank’s (Jason Mantzoukas), their disjointed best friend’s house.It all seems like a perfectly planned out idea in their world, until ‘Bob’ comes along again and tries to ruin their thought of having enough to pay for their daughter’s education, again.
Now, keeping aside the obvious plot holes because at the end of it, it is meant to be a comedy and it does not have to flow logically. Nonetheless, call me a killjoy, but I can’t help but notice the flaws with the direction of the movie. Andrew whisks through the scenes so speedily (one may be thankful for this, since it means lesser time to sit through cringey scenes) to the extent that the audience do not really have enough time to process the humour. More importantly, he never lets us witness enough of the description of the characters at a point, to fully contrast it with their transformation- which is essentially a major part of the humorous aspect of the movie. For instance, let us take the most significant shift. ‘Scott and Kate’ are suddenly, and most drastically presented as ‘The Butcher’ and ‘The Burner’ which although does create humour to an extent when first introduced, does not continue to have the same effect due to its repeated use. Since this transformation is too sudden, too extreme and lacks description, it is also the least plausible and that is why it fails to create humour apart from the few giggles at the start.
The problem with ‘The House’ is that the underlying idea that it is based on- that parents turn into secretly hardcore criminals to fund their only daughter’s education whilst living in a spacious home is so ridiculous, that it is genuinely humorous. But, unfortunately, it is taken to extremes and on the way, the humour is lost. An example that completely justifies this is the absurd, poor graphic violence in the second half of the movie. Them being portrayed as sudden, hardcore criminals is funny to some degree but when ‘Scott’ takes the title, ‘The Butcher’ too literally and starts chopping off fingers, the ridiculousness is no longer perceived as humour and instead the gory just becomes a drag.
Overall, unless you want to experience the limited humour in this 90-minute movie, you are better of saving your time, watching another actually humorous comedy. This movie is another example of how the directors and producer rely on the talents of the characters, who seem to be doing what they can, but perhaps, this movie would only be classified as humorous if the producers invested more in better script and dialogue writers instead of repeatedly using the same jokes, which completely lose their humour on the way.
Verdict : 4.5/10