You don’t have a lot of money and your town’s magical plot device scholarship your daughter rightfully earned is no longer available to pay for her college tuition and expenses. What do you do?
There’s only one solution here, and it’s obviously that you open an illegal casino with your friend whose life is falling apart.
The House is primarily about three people: Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) and their mess of a friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas). Scott and Kate need about a quarter of a million dollars to get their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) through college after the scholarship they expected her to get disappeared. Frank needs about the same amount to fight back against foreclosure on his house following a separation from his wife Raina (Michaela Watkins) thanks to a gambling problem and something that definitely isn’t an internet porn addiction.
The trio open a casino in Frank’s house, and it quickly becomes the thing to do in their suburban town. Pretty much everybody takes an interest in it, especially awkward cop Chandler (Rob Huebel) and ultra-shady city councilman Bob (Nick Kroll). And what gambling movie would be complete without a visit from a tough guy mobster?
That might sound like it’s enough plot for a sitcom episode stretched out to 90 minutes, and that’s because it is. The House is narratively light and only sporadically funny, which is an unfortunate combination. The chemistry between Ferrell, Poehler, and Mantzoukas is enough to make The House an enjoyable experience, but the movie doesn’t have what it takes to make it a classic comedy—or even a memorable one. The good news, though, is that Mantzoukas’ Frank is every bit as crazy as any fan of his time as Dennis Feinstein on Parks and Recreation or Adrian Pimento on Brooklyn Nine-Nine would hope.
If you’ve seen the movie’s red band trailer, you’ve seen the majority of The House‘s biggest moments. There’s an awkward moment early on as Ferrell and Poehler’s characters start making plans for once their daughter’s off at college. There’s a (great) scene in which Ferrell’s Scott becomes an unintentional mobster of sorts, and it’s hilarious even having seen it in the red band trailer a couple times. There are a few more jokes spread throughout the film, but they’re mostly of the smaller, chuckle to yourself variety. One early credits outtake aside, every big laugh The House has to offer has been shown long before the movie hit theaters.
Will you enjoy The House if you’re a fan of pretty much anyone in the cast? Yes. Will you have a good time if you decide to see the movie? Probably. Are there better ways to spend your time and money? Absolutely.
There’s just not much depth here—The House is ninety percent concept with a minimal story to go along with it. The movie has plenty of gags and jokes, and its cast is full of comedic talent, but they’re not enough to sustain its already short running time or make it anything more than a quick, forgettable distraction from the world.