The most insulting comedies are the ones that feel like glorified cast retreats. Often built around a simple, snappy premise, a no-name director will grab a bunch of talented comedians and just…let them talk. Surely, anything that famous people can barf out on command will be hilarious, who needs writing? In this case, we see Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, thrown into a living room dressed like a casino as they yell and scream a whole lot. The House is about as funny as sitting in a gutter outside a casino after losing your rent money playing blackjack.
The premise of a suburban couple starting an illegal gambling ring doesn’t lack potential. There was a real opportunity here to create a clever parody of crime films. We could’ve had a Scorsese movie by way of a cul-de-sac. Instead, first-time director Andrew Jay Cohen is aggressively committed to not doing anything new. Once all of the set-up business is out of the way, each scene seems to be based around what Ferrell and Poehler randomly decided they wanted to do that day.
There’s no attempt made by either star to push themselves. Ferrell coasts on his dopey repressed wild man shtick for the 7000th time. His predictable transformation from babyish pushover to “hardened” criminal plays exactly like it did in Get Hard, which as we all know, everybody loved. Poehler isn’t even given a shell of a personality. She’s mostly just there to react to Ferrell and occasionally toss in a snappy line that she made up while eating a bagel at craft services. It’s physically uncomfortable to watch these two pretend to have any romantic chemistry. Jason Mantzoukas, who’s normally able to pull laughs out of thin air, also feels completely lost here. He’s supposed to be the awkward third of this comedic trio but since his co-stars aren’t jiving, he has even less to worry about. Nick Kroll is traditionally grating as a generic evil politician, while a couple of insultingly lazy cameos by people who have far better things to do are the cherry on top.
This movie takes place in a completely daft world where nothing has to make sense. Ferrell and Poehler essentially turn to the dark side on a dime, without any real attention given to why other than “they’re having fun.” Somehow, although the entire small town seems to be going to one loud house every night, the one police officer can’t seem to piece things together. When Ferrell very publicly almost murders somebody, of course everybody’s back in the casino the next night. It’s difficult to even describe these pieces as plot beats because each scene feels like its own extended SNL sketch with no cohesion to what came before or after. There’s so little story structure, that the film has two different climaxes that are both completely underwhelming.
I wish that I could say that The House is bafflingly bad but it really isn’t. This is just an even lazier than normal byproduct of what American comedies have become, extended SNL stitches with egotistical stars who are more worried about getting their little quips in than telling a story. It’s a movie directed by somebody who is terrified to tell his actors when something isn’t working and as a result, the audience walks out of The House empty handed.
Also, there are bloopers at the end. Just so we all know that we were supposed to have fun.