Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Come Back, Will Ferrell

A Review of the new Will Ferrell comedy The House

"He's cheating. We gotta send a message. Like DeNiro in Casino." 
- A line spoken by Scott, as played by Will Ferrell in another missed opportunity of a comedy.

Let me hit you with some true facts.

Will Ferrell is funny. Amy Poehler is funny. Jason Mantzoukas is funny. And I laughed a lot during their new comedy, The House.

But here's another true fact.

This movie, like all of Will Ferrell's movies of late, is crap.

The premise (a married couple and their recently separated friend opening an underground casino to pay for their daughter's ride to college) is good...

...if you can let go of the fact that student loans exist, and that's how I and most people I know paid for college...

...and if you also let go of the fact that a married couple who don't seem to have jobs but live in a house that easily cost three quarters of a million dollars can't afford college tuition...

...and if you also let go of the fact that they banked the whole thing on their daughter winning a scholarship provided by the city council that she doesn't get because the council chairman wants to build a massive swimming pool....

...Phew! That's a lot of work we're having to do right off the bat, but anyway...

Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) want to send their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins) to the school of her dreams, but all that up there happened, and they don't have the money. Their neighbor Frank (Mantzoukas) is recently separated from his hairdresser wife due to a gambling addiction and a penchant for hanging out, bearded and dirty, in a bathrobe.

Since none of them have any money, the three naturally go on a vacation to Las Vegas to try to win the tuition, only to realize that, oh yeah!, "the house" always wins. The lightbulb goes off in Frank's head...let's turn my "house" into a casino.

Soon, all the sad sap suburbanite neighbors (all played by recognizable comedic talents) turn up in droves to throw money around, drink, do drugs, and beat each other up. This is, of course, all behind the back of the town cop (Rob Huebel) and the crooked city council chairman (Nick Kroll), who has been embezzling from the city for years it seems all while having an affair with the city's accountant (Allison Tolman), who didn't seem to notice any money missing....really.

Of course, you can see where this will all end up...but, wait, you're wrong, because this movie is so lazy it doesn't even try to satisfy us in any way. Jeremy Renner shows up, inexplicably, as a mob boss, nothing happens to the bad guy, and then it just sort of ends in phony shiny happy fashion.

But I can't even remember how now or what even happened and who cares.

The screenplay, written by Brendan O'Brien and director Andrew Jay Cohen, who also wrote the brilliant 2014 Seth Rogen/Zac Efron comedy Neighbors, has so much potential. There is a really hilarious and biting dark comedy in the mid-section of The House.

When Ferrell, Poehler, and Mantzoukas actually turn pro and start working the crime angle. Ferrell becomes known as "The Butcher" after a finger gets chopped off, and the whole movies shifts into this really engaging, violent satire about a middle class couple getting back at the man by succeeding at a life of crime. Like, please, somebody make THAT movie.

Honestly, I think that's what they meant to do. But Cohen is such a poor director that he just couldn't handle the overstuffed cast and then his editors couldn't decide which story to tell.

Will Ferrell is the best part of the movie. He plays this almost empty-nester turned casino tough guy from all angles and manages to hit the strongest at this character's most over-the-top. But he's having a tough time getting a movie to really land these days. After this, Get Hard, and Daddy's Home, I think I know why...

He doesn't have a good filmmaker by his side anymore. Adam McKay, who directed the most successful of Ferrell's comedies (Anchorman, Talledega Nights, and the masterful Step Brothers), is doing his own thing now, winning Oscars and on his way to more. He ain't coming back, and Will needs to find another good one.

In the right hands, Ferrell is better than any other comedic leading man. In the wrong hands, he's just funny. Sadly, that isn't enough these days.

Audiences want more than just funny. They want good too. And The House is not a good movie.
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The House
dir. Andrew Jay Cohen, 2017
★★



Screened at Regal Riviera 8 in Downtown Knoxville on July 15, 2017. 

2 comments:

  1. Great review, man.

    I thought this was absolutely hilarious. The direction wasn't the best, but the hilarious performances from Ferrell, Poehler & Mantzoukas made up for that. Also, this had the best use of Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3 since The Sopranos.

    My review of this will be posted either tonight or tomorrow.

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    1. Yeah. The sequence with Woke up this Morning is one of the best things about this otherwise crap comedy.

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