Back on June 30 (2017), Warner Bros. and New Line basically had the weekend to themselves with the only major competition coming from the animated Despicable Me 3, Baby Driver and a limited release of The Beguiled The last movie to open prior to that was Transformers: The Last Knight on June 21, and the last R-rated adult comedy before that was Rough Night on June 16 which could only muster a seventh place opening weekend with $8 million on a decidedly more crowded weekend. The House placed sixth with $8.7 million, with Despicable Me 3 and Baby Driver taking the top two spots (and in limited release, The Beguiled actually earned $2,000 more per screen than The House which was on about 2,500 more screens).
The House should have been a slam dunk coming from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (among other producers including current Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin!), the writers of the two Neighbors movies and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and cast that included Ferrell and Amy Poehler in their first movie together (well, Poehler did have an uncredited cameo in Anchorman 2), Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, Rob Huebel and a host of Poehler’s friends from Upright Citizens Brigade. So what happened? Why did a $40 million comedy (a decidedly bloated budget) earn just $34.1 million worldwide and a 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes? Judging from the bonus material on the Blu-ray, I’d say improv played a big part in it.
The House is the story of Scott and Kate Johansen whose daughter Alex is about to head off to college. The town in which they live bestows a scholarship on one lucky resident each year and Alex was expected to receive it this year. But the town council claimed they had no money in the budget while promoting the new city swimming pools — plural, five pools and a food court — putting the Johansen’s in a financial bind because neither of them really know how to manage their money (and numbers scare Scott). Their neighbor Frank is going through an ugly break-up with his wife and plans a Vegas trip for him and the Johansens and after losing a ton of money, they realize the house always wins. They need money for the college tuition and Frank needs money to save his house from foreclosure, so why not open an underground casino right there in his house, inviting a few of their friends at first to test the waters. Of course as they become successful and the money starts rolling in, outside forces begin to creep in, threatening the entire operation. And hilarity ensues … or it should have.
I didn’t hate The House. In fact, I chuckled quite a few times throughout the movie. There are some funny bits, and there are quite a few very absurd, over-the-top moments that just require a little too much suspension of disbelief (like it’s never explained where Scott and Kate have acquired their new wardrobe, or how they can keep the casino so hidden not only from their daughter, but from the rest of the town). There’s also a completely out of the blue sub-sub-sub-plot involving a local mobster (played by Jeremy Renner) that is shoehorned into the story quite close to the end that really should have ended up in the deleted scenes footage (while some of the deleted scenes should have remains for a little plot clarity). Overall, though, I didn’t think the movie was as awful as the rest of the critics (who, let’s face it, don’t really appreciate this kind of comedy). They could have done with a few less gratuitous F-bombs (were they just there to get the R-rating?), but I did laugh so consider that a recommendation of sorts.
The Blu-ray release presents the film in a crystal clear image, vividly highlighting the neon colors that creep into the setting as the casino becomes more and more successful. Outside of that, skin tones look good and blacks are nice and inky reflecting the digital cinematography. The sound mix (5.1 DTS-HD MA) is also quite good for this film genre which usually only uses the surrounds for the musical score. Here, sounds effects are utilized quite well with voices being heard all around during the casino scenes, really immersing the viewer in the action. Sound effects are also used well during a major fight scene, and all of the main dialogue is crisp and clear, front and center. Overall, it’s another nice presentation from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
And for a film that tanked at the box office, WBHE went the extra mile with the Blu-ray extras which include:
- The House: Playing With a Loaded Deck (12:47) – Ferrell, Poehler, the cast and crew talk about working with each other and making the film with clips, behind-the-scenes footage and some deleted scenes punctuating the interviews.
- If You Build the House They Will Come (13:43) – In depth looks at the design of the house casino, the fight choreography, the prosthetics, and filming the finger scene.
- Deleted Scenes (15:43) – Alternate Opening: Yogurt & More; Trim Your Bush; Frank’s Awakening; Container Store Cashier; Reggie Checks In; Reggie Tries to Sleep; I Come Correct When I Come To Collect; Yogurt Run-In; Tea With Chandler; Charades; Outside Town Hall. A few of these could have remained in the film to explain some story points later, particularly the “Trim Your Bush” scene.
- Extended / Alternate Scenes (1:19:54) which could have simply been presented as an alternate or unrated version of the film if they hadn’t broken each scene up with a title card.
- Gag Reel (9:57) which shows the cast had a lot of fun making the movie.
- Line-O-Rama (8:41) – A collection of randomly improvised dialog scenes proving the cast probably should have stuck to the script.
The Blu-ray also comes with a DVD and a Digital HD copy which you can access with your mobile or streaming devices with a Vudu account or the new Movies Anywhere app. Comedy is in the eye of the beholder, always subjective, depending on your own funny bone. While some may enjoy The House, others may not. I liked it enough. It’s not the greatest comedy ever made, and it’s not the worst, so it could provide you with a few diversionary laughs. The Blu-ray presentation is flawless and the extras are bountiful, so that could be worth the purchase price alone. Your mileage may vary.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray of the film for reviewing purposes.