The House Plot Summary:
When the town can’t pay the scholarship for their daughter (Ryan Simpkins), Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) Johansen run an underground casino with their gambling addict friend (Jason Mantzoukas). As the casino gets bigger and bigger, the trio attract more unwanted attention.
Hey, Baywatch! Are you paying attention? This is how comedy works. You get actual comedians and people who know how to be funny. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are seasoned veterans, and it shows on the screen. Was this the greatest screenplay in the world? Absolutely not. It’s clear that Ferrell and Poehler, among other great comic actors in this movie, had to improv a mediocre script. This is a funny concept, and even though a lot more could have been done here, I got consistent chuckles, including a couple legit laugh out loud moments, which is exceptionally rare these days. That’s why The House is this year’s funniest comedy.
I already mentioned Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, but they are two-thirds of what makes The House hit the laugh meter more times than not. You all know who Jason Mantzoukas is. He’s popped up in a lot of oddball roles, but is most famous as the complete lunatic, Rafi, from The League. This guy is flat out hilarious. Mantzoukas plays the main couple’s best friend, Frank, who’s recently gone through a separation with his wife and has hit rock bottom. While Frank exhibits many Rafi-esque qualities, he’s more of a normal character here. I love Rafi, but he’s a completely absurd character. Playing a more down to earth guy (relative to Rafi) arguably makes him funnier because he’s more relatable. Bottom-line: Ferrell, Poehler and Mantzoukas make a fantastic trio.
It all goes back to Ferrell and Poehler though. This is like watching Nadal and Federer go back and forth. They just know comedy so well. Their timing is perfect. The delivery impeccable. All the inflections you’d want these characters to have, they deliver. Their physical comedy hasn’t missed a beat. If you need someone to comically fall into a container at the container store, nobody can do that better than Will Ferrell.
We aren’t talking about layered characters here. They are your typical loving parents, but clearly had a wild side in college that creeps out as their casino gains more traction. Even though this is more Ferrell and Poehler shining, the script does manage to infuse a couple ingenious ideas. In the trailer, Poehler asks Ferrell how old he’ll be if he goes to jail at forty, but he can’t do the math. That’s pretty stupid in the trailer, right? Really, a grown man can’t add 40+20? Come on. The movie actually gives you a great reason why he can’t add the numbers. The character has a huge issue with math. It constantly comes up, and it’s usually pretty damn funny.
As far as Amy Poehler goes, she plays off of Ferrell flawlessly. Her best moments are when she simply turns on a blow torch. This image alone baffles me as to why this movie has a low Rotten Tomato score. We’ll get to that later.
Aside from the trio, there are hilarious supporting characters who pop in and out at the perfect time. Nick Kroll (another League alum) is as smarmy as ever, playing the jackass town councilman. Kroll is great as always, but they left a lot on the table with him. Rob Huebel, who was one of the bright spots of Baywatch, is the lovable goofy cop. Lennon Parham is hilarious as Martha, one of the eccentric townsfolk who comes off as a soccer mom, but is in fact crazy. Cedric Yarbrough is Ferrell’s boss, and is completely unstable. He probably had the funniest line in the movie that truly made me laugh out loud.
The town folk in general were some of the best parts. Whenever the comedy focused on them at the casino, it was a pleasure to watch. Unfortunately, the movie gets less and less funny as it goes along. As the casino gets bigger and zanier, it loses that intimate hilarity. When it goes into absurd land, it’s still funny, but not as good.
Is The House one of the great comedies of our time? Absolutely not. There are definite lulls that stop this from being great. That brings us to the Rotten Tomato score (currently at 16%). I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Even if you don’t like this movie, there’s no way in hell it should equate to that low a number. The movie definitely has a few cracks about sensitive issues, such as gun control, but I never felt like they crossed the line. I hope that’s not the reason it got such a low rating. Those were some of the funnier bits in the film. In the age of social media, why do we have to take ourselves so seriously? Can’t we just have a few laughs? For crying out loud.
It really bothers me that a comedy like Central Intelligence is 53 percentage points higher than The House. It disturbs me. Central Intelligence is the most bland, safe, watered down comedy there is. This movie takes a few risks and isn’t afraid to have an edge, but gets roasted by the critics. Is this why we don’t have great comedies anymore? The same thing happened to Dirty Grandpa, a movie I also enjoyed.
Well, we went off track here. Here’s the bottom-line: If you like laughing, go see The House. If you don’t like laughing, put Central Intelligence at the top of your Netflix queue.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)