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Movie Night – ‘The House’ is mildly entertaining, but not funny

By Bradley Griffith

Will Ferrell is one of the best comedians in showbiz today.  Amy Poehler is not far behind.  The two worked together on Saturday Night Live.  The pairing of the two in the new comedy “The House” should be comedic gold, right?  Wrong.

Scott (Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Poehler) have a beautiful and smart daughter.  Alex (Ryan Simpkins) is a senior in high school and has a wonderful life in front her.  She has been accepted to Bucknell and has received a full college scholarship from her hometown.  Scott and Kate throw Alex a party for her acceptance to Bucknell and virtually the whole town attends to celebrate with the Johansens.

A wrench is thrown in their plans when the director of the city council, Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll), announces at the next city council meeting that the town has no money to fund the scholarship.  Instead, the town is going to build an aquatic center with two swimming pools and water slides.  When Scott and Kate’s protests ring on deaf ears to everyone who wants the aquatic center, they have to find another way to pay for Bucknell.

They have no money in savings, no money in their retirement accounts, and the bank won’t loan them any money.  They give Alex the bad news that they won’t be able to pay for Bucknell.  Alex is disappointed, but understanding. She is a good kid, and that only makes this more difficult for Scott and Kate.  There’s no mention of why Alex can’t get student loans like almost every other student.

Scott’s best friend, Frank Theodorakis (Jason Mantzoukas), has an idea that may get them enough money to send Alex to school and help him win back the affections of his estranged wife.  Frank’s wife left him because he’s a gambler.  But instead of gambling, Frank wants to use his knowledge of the industry to open an undercover casino in his house with the help of Scott and Kate.  Left with no other option, they agree.   Everything starts off great but, as things tend to do, the enterprise goes off the rails in a swift and dramatic fashion.

If you have read these reviews before you know that the cardinal sin for a comedy is not being funny.  I won’t go so far as to say that “The House” is not funny at all, but you should spend most of your time during a comedy laughing, or at least with a smile on your face, rather than watching and waiting for big laughs that never come.  There are several parts of the movie that will make you chuckle, but no scene in the movie will even come close to making you laugh till you cry.

The story was not well thought out.  It seems that the only idea behind the movie was for an undercover casino in someone’s house, and all the hijinks that might create.  Unfortunately, the plot kind of stopped right there.  A casino in a home is an interesting idea, but you need more to make it entertaining and enjoyable.  It seemed like the writers either quit or couldn’t come up with a single good idea after the casino became a reality.

In lieu of actual storytelling they just inserted as much bad language and ridiculously improbable situations as possible to cover up the lack of a storyline.  They didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the story and hope you won’t either.

It seems obvious what the filmmakers were thinking: let’s throw Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler together and hope they can make magic happen.  It didn’t work.  While they are both great actors, it’s too bad that neither of them performed up to their abilities in “The House.”

“The House” is mildly entertaining.  The problem is that it’s just not that funny.  When the funniest parts of the movie are the outtakes during the credits you may have a problem with your movie.

Grade: C

Rated R for language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence, and brief nudity.