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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

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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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook