Monday, July 3, 2017

The House: Like A So-So Episode Of Parks And Recreation

The House currently sits at a 19% on rottentomatoes. There has recently been this debate going on if RT is helping or damaging films with their scores. I believe the misconception about RT is that it is a singular movie review website that comes up with its own percentage of how good or bad a movie is. This is obviously wrong. It is the aggregate of all of the critics who submit their reviews of positive or negative. If 119 critics submit their reviews and 74 of them give a positive review then the RT score would be a 62%. I think that RT actually helps moviegoers more than filmmakers and production companies. As moviegoers we have seen ticket prices inflate so much that $15 for a movie ticket is now a norm instead of outrageous. I remember paying upwards of $7 a movie when I was in high school, something I thought was personally ridiculous at the time. So, if I can rely on a website to give me a general idea of the quality of a movie before I go out and spend my time and money on it... I actually appreciate it. However, movies can live and die by its RT score these days. Recently, The Mummy received a well-deserved 15% and lost the studio a lot of money. Then again, Wonder Woman received 92% (also very well-deserved) and experts say this has directly contributed to its success. We don't only have to rely on word of mouth any longer because generally we can rely on RT's information. However, you have to do your homework. For instance, if you're an Adam Sandler fan... just understand that whatever score it gets on RT is probably going to be insanely low because critics have given him enough freebies that it's going to have to be mind-blowingly funny to get anything with a double-digit score. I've also noticed this trend lately with Will Ferrell films. 2015's Get Hard was nothing to write home about, but did have some genuinely funny moments. It currently sits at 29%... which I'd say is just a bit below what it deserves. The House currently sits at 19%... and it's certainly not that bad. It's not a good movie, but it's not as awful as its RT score suggests.

I believe one of the reasons that Will Ferrell hasn't been given the love from critics lately is that he's been making somewhat underwhelming films. In the mid 00s, he was a comedic juggernaut, giving us larger-than-life characters and made simple comedies feel like mid-summer blockbusters. However, some time after The Other Guys, his movies felt smaller... he felt more tired... and he wasn't writing his own material anymore. His string of films since then (Casa De Mi Padre, The Campaign, Get Hard, Daddy's Home and now The House) just don't have the umph that his previous films had. Most of them come off as paycheck movies. He's one well-written film away from having his comedic resurgence... unfortunately, The House isn't that movie. But, it's not awful either. Much like most of his previously mentioned films, it's enjoyable to watch (especially since we dip back into R-rated territory), but they're wildly forgettable once credits roll. The House plays more like a so-so episode of Parks and Recreation than something a bunch of people spent months of their lives putting together as a feature film. (Disclaimer: I love Parks and Rec... but when something goes that many seasons not every episode is going to be solid gold.)

Ferrell and Amy Poehler play married couple Scott and Kate Johansen, who don't have the money to pay for their daughter, Alex's, college tuition. So, in order to come up with the money, they, along with their friend Frank (a wildly hilarious Jason Mantzoukas), come up with a scheme to open an illegal, underground casino in Frank's house. The casino is instantly a success, but they soon run into problems with an overly-curious cop (Rob Huebel), a crooked councilman (Nick Kroll), and a violent gangster (a pretty funny cameo I won't spoil). Scott and Kate begin the film as two nerdy, trying-to-be-cool parents and wind up acting like a 1960s mafia couple, which lends to a few of the bigger laughs of the film. It's not an overly-clever premise, but it works in terms of June/July summer movie comedies. Ferrell and Poehler are actually quite good together, honing in on their days as SNL members. They're goofy and good-natured and both of them are very talented comedians. But, it's the trifecta of them and Mantzoukas (as most of you know as Rafi from The League) that really provide the laughs in the movie. It's actually a little bit difficult to not scrutinize a movie like this one, only a short while after having seen the fantastic Baby Driver, but The House is a movie that will, in fact, make you laugh several times. It's not the quality of the laughs that drive down the film's score, but its the infrequency of the laughs. There are jokes made in every scene, but not all of them land.

Finally, what brings the movie down really is its simplistic plot. The turning point for the characters ("we should open our own casino") really seems to come out of nowhere, the conflict doesn't feel real enough for us to believe anyone is actually going to suffer any repercussions, and the story is just too silly to really care about anyone or anything. But that's not what this movie is going for. It's a dumb R-rated Will Ferrell comedy and it serves its purpose. Is it Anchorman? No. Is it Talladega Nights? No way. But it is a movie where you can spend an hour and a half of your life laughing at the stupid misfortunes of a couple of really funny comedians. The movie is no better and no worse than 2015's Sisters also starring Poehler (which, in point of fact, rests at a comfy 60% on RT). It's fun, it's silly, not all of the jokes land (in fact a few fall very, very flat), but the ones that do make the movie worth it. Unless you just aren't a Ferrell fan at all, I doubt you'll leave the theater feeling betrayed by the once-prevailing comedic force (who, I'm telling you, is due for a resurgence). It's popcorn comedy at it's most satisfactory.

You know what... forget everything I just said and just go see Baby Driver.


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