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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: The House

the house pic 5

The House doesn’t suck.

The House is funny. I laughed a lot.

The House is short. It has one of those closing credit sequences that go in slow motion to hope to get the movie to 90 minutes. They clearly came up short of the target.

The House would have been a good mean-as-hell comedy if there were a third act that worked. That is where the movie stalls: the third act turn. Jeremy Renner is good in his role… but he was there for a day, maybe two, and the movie suffers from his character not being a big part of the third act.

First Act: Goofy parents anticipating being empty-nesters are excited that their daughter got into the college of her choice… but then find they can’t afford it.

Second Act: They open the casino with a ne’er-do-well neighbor and insanity ensues. By far the strongest part.

Third Act: The strongest villain character in the piece, the Renner character, is not there for long. So they rely on local goofballs and a kinda lame, not convincing, nonsensical turn.

I don’t want to say “this is what they should have done,” because there are a million answers, but as the movie played out, I was really looking forward to the super-clever way that the bad guy mob guy (Renner) would become part of the crazy family.

As I thought about it later, the Midnight Run structure occurred to me. Dennis Farina as the mob guy and Yaphet Kotto as the cop. The genius of that screenplay is that it knows that it is repeating the same gag over and over, but mixes it enough each time that the audience is both actively anticipating and surprised repeatedly… and not by overly broad or silly twists. It all makes sense, in the context of a movie. Just as the audience is thinking, “just get him on an airplane.” the script explains why that won’t work. “Just gag him and tie him up and drive back”… the script makes that impossible to happen in a way that feels truthful.

The House would have been a lot more interesting if Renner’s guy took Ferrell’s “The Butcher” into his crew and that acceptance of him as a tough guy brought him to the realization that he wanted the simplicity of his old life. A cliché, but better. Of course, the movie could have been something else even better and execution means a lot… but what we get instead is just endless shifting of moods, which Ferrell and Poehler make work beyond reason, but still comes up short.

If, in the end, the mob and the family both won over the other villainous forces, this would have been a better movie. And it would fit the aesthetic, which was so smartly laid out by Tony Scott in his review here.

Still… I laughed a lot. Violence between two people who are equally wrong about something can be very funny. Myopia can be very funny. This wild casino operating in unrealistic silence on a residential street of a small town is very funny. This cast is very funny… and I loved watching the President of the United States from ‘VEEP’ getting her suburban bitch on.

And the young woman who plays Ferrell & Poehler’s daughter, Ryan Simpkins, is surprisingly solid. She stuck out to me, even with those two mugging on either side of her. I didn’t recognize her from Arcadia, a tiny indie in which she kept up with the great John Hawkes. Anyway… not sure why she stuck out for me, but she did. WE can hope this is the early day of a long career.

Anyway… when you catch this one on HBO some day, you will be surprised how much you laugh. It could actually become one of those cult-y pieces. I’m not anxious to pay $17 for it again, but I would watch it again without having my arm twisted. Just wish they had figured out the third act.

5 Responses to “Review: The House”

  1. hcat says:

    This is the most positive review I have read so far for this movie.

    But even so, its a sad state of affairs when I have the lament “they just don’t make movies like Dodgeball anymore.”

  2. Sideshow Bill says:

    Well, this is a surprise.

    I love Ferrell so I will watch this eventually. And Jason Mantzoukas deserves a break-out. I love How Did This Get Made. He’s the MVP of that podcast.

  3. ADFan says:

    The only funny part I found was in the trailer.

  4. jspartisan says:

    Like Ive been stating, and a dude over at deadline expanded on… THIS PREMISE IS SHIT! Who fucking goes, “Man, I can’t get my daughter into college. Let’s open an illegal casino! That makes sense. Right?” Seriously, that premise is shit, and folks aren’t down with this shit anymore. If the comedy isn’t action related, or based on some bent of reality. People are going to stay the fuck home.

  5. mOVIEIRV says:

    Humor is obviously subjective, but I really thought this film was jaw droppingly awful. A bad Rotten Tomatoes number often draws me to a film because I wonder if critics got it wrong (sometimes the case) or if there is something worthwhile in a bad movie. With “The house,” to me, there was nothing/ The last third of the film seems to have come from a different movie–I’d bet it was added after testing an original ending didn’t work. Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed it David, but I couldn’t find anything worthwhile in this dismal film–the first half is watchable but not funny, the rest of it terrible.

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