You would have thought Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler have starred in more films together. But the gambling comedy The House is really only their second pairing since 2007’s Blades of Glory, where they didn’t share much screen time. And considering that by 2017, both had already passed the apexes of their careers, the release of The House wasn’t exactly timely.
Nonetheless, both actors do a solid job here playing parents who can’t afford to send their daughter to college and thus start an underground casino.
For a straight Will Ferrell romp, the quotable line count is a little lower than usual, but the premise is one of his more fun ones. Despite not being as funny as other comedies, you’re still genuinely interested in where it’s going—with it even paying off in the end.
The problems are almost all entirely related to the characters themselves. It’s like the writers wanted Poehler and Ferrell to achieve a certain arc, so they contrived ways of getting them there. Both of them are pretty stupid, with Ferrell’s character being the standout, and it’s used as a device to get the plot where it needs to be—which isn’t anything new in this genre, but it’s definitely much more obvious here.
There’s a frustrating scene towards the beginning where Ferrell and Poehler are playing craps in a Las Vegas casino and they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on one roll. Anyone who’s played craps knows that no one keeps pressing the same number without ever taking anything off of it for that long of a time—unless they’re rich beyond their means or an idiot. Well, these characters are the latter. And they’re definitely not rich. If they were, there would be no movie to begin with.
But that’s the type of stupid characters we’re dealing with. It’s not like in Dumb and Dumber where the joke is how the protagonists can barely function in society. The couple in this film have a daughter, friends, corporate jobs, and a big house (which begs the question of why they don’t just sell it). It’s Griswoldesque—which is one of the reasons the Vacation series doesn’t hold up well today.
Luckily The House has more breadth to the story, thank goodness. Actually, quite a lot more. The town they live in is full of interesting characters who all have issues and come to this casino to blow off steam.
No scenes really get dragged out for too long, like a lot of comedies of that time (4 years ago) tend to do. The runtime is brisk, even though a lot seems to happen.
The House won’t go down as one of the greatest comedies of its era, but it will definitely be worth watching a few times over.