If you’ve ever wondered how a film could perfectly squander the acting talents of two A-list movie stars, then look no further than The House.
The House stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as Scott and Kate, two parents trying to send their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to college. With very little money to do so, Scott and Kate reluctantly decide to open up an illegal casino in the basement of their good friend Frank’s (Jason Mantzoukas) house. As they quickly become absorbed into the Vegas-esque lifestyle, Scott and Kate soon realize the bit off way more than they can chew, with angry councilmen, dim-witted cops, and even gangsters hot on their trail.
The most unfortunate aspect of The House isn’t its poorly paced plot or the abundance of shoddy scenes that go nowhere. No, the worst part of this entire picture happened to be the shockingly lousy performances of Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, who were given too much free rein in their acting. It was as if they were both put in front of a camera and told to “be funny”. This decision to use improvisation resulted in horrible comedic timing, with many awkward pauses that constantly broke up the dialogue.
The one saving grace of The House that rescues it from being a complete failure in comedy, is the arrival of Jeremy Renner’s character. Renner played a mob boss whose behavior matched the nonsensical tone of the film much better than anyone else. The few scenes Renner was involved with are downright over-the-top and ridiculous, which actually got some laughs from the audience. Even though his presence in the film was short-lived, his character was infinitely more entertaining than Ferrell or Poehler.
The House could’ve been a much more successful comedy, had it only embraced the absurd nature of the premise (and stuck to a more focused plot). The moments where Will Ferrell is chopping off fingers and Jeremy Renner is getting set on fire are hilarious, but make up only a small sliver of the film. Most of the time the audience is subjected to embarrassingly stale humor from actors that deserve a better vessel to showcase their talents.
With overwhelmingly bad direction, crummy plot pacing, and lots of wasted potential, The House is a film that audiences will be quick to forget.
The Verdict: D