Will Ferrell hasn’t had an unqualified success since 2010’s The Other Guys and Amy Poehler has yet to find a movie vehicle that utilizes her talents the way TV’s Parks and Recreation did. Sadly, none of that changes with The House.
Ferrell and Poehler play a married couple about to send their daughter (Ryan Simpkins) to college via a community scholarship. When the scholarship is taken away at the last minute, they’re left to find a way to pay for tuition. Ferrell’s wild man friend (Jason Mantzoukas) comes up with the idea of opening a casino in his house.
It’s not a bad setup. Done well, it almost could have played as an adult version of Risky Business. But while The House is a little funnier than this summer’s awful Rough Night, it suffers from a similar problem: that almost no character exhibits anything resembling recognizable human behavior. It’s a series of characters behaving as outlandishly as possible with little to ground them. And like many modern comedies, it feels like a loose outline was made and the actors were just told “go be funny.” Improvisation can be funny, but good improvisation doesn’t feel like it was improvised when you’re watching it. The House feels like it was hashed together on the spot. Hopefully one day Hollywood will drift back towards tightly scripted farce.