Unfortunately not even the powerhouse comedic pairing of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler can make The House anything more than a basic, forgettable comedy.
Scott and Kate Johansen (Ferrell and Poehler) need to come up with money quick, in order to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. In comes their close friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and his hair-brained scheme to partner up and start an underground casino in his house.
It’s a plot that has the potential for comedy gold, however there are only a couple of moments where the film utilises the setting to its full potential. Save for a scene that pits some of the town’s neighbours in a bare-knuckle fight as part of the casino’s ‘fight night’, and another that sees the ‘house’ discipline a cheating gambler, there really isn’t much else funny in this film.
The film’s writer and director Andrew Jay Cohen makes his feature film directorial debut here, but has notably been credited for writing other popular comedies such as 2014’s Bad Neighbours and 2016’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – both of which were better than The House, which is strange because arguably, The House has a better comedy cast than those films, and one of the better casts out of all comedy films released in recent times.
Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler perform well-enough in their roles, though they’re mostly just playing the same characters you’ve likely seen them play before, with little room for any further depth. It’s only Mantzoukas’ character Frank that actually has a bit of character behind him, and Mantzoukas does the best he can with what he’s got to work with.
Aside from generally not being very funny, the film’s biggest fault would have to be its wasting of talent and potential. Alongside the leads is an ensemble supporting cast featuring some of the best comedic talent in Hollywood at the moment, but whose talents are mostly wasted. The setup for laughs is there the whole way through, but the timing on the jokes is off, and the comedy boundaries are never pushed.
The only redeeming quality The House has is its likeable stars, and the moments where it appears they’ve thrown some improv into the mix. It’s those couple of things that will get you through the film.
Will Ferrel and Amy Poehler previously worked together ten years prior in Blades of Glory (2007).