The House (2 stars)

The House

Try as they might, Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell can't save this exhaustingly stupid comedy

In a time where sophisticated comedy is in abundance, particularly across the small screen (think Fleabag, for example, or Master of None), betting the house on a narrative flush with crude antics was always going to be a risky gamble. And, despite the best efforts of enthusiastic stars Amy Poehler and Will Ferrell, it doesn't come close to paying off.

The pair do have an easy rapport as Scott and Kate Johansen, whose reaction to the rescinding of their daughter's town-funded college scholarship is to team up with their newly single friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) and open an underground casino. As they try to stay one step ahead of the town's corrupt councillor Bob (Nick Kroll) and, later, a random gangster (Jeremy Renner, in a thankless cameo), the trio begin to succumb to their mobster alter-egos.

There are fleeting moments of interest in the screenplay, written by debut director Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O'Brien: Scott and Kate's fear of what their lives will become after their only daughter leaves home, or the obscene cost of education which drives ordinary people to desperate measures. But, just as in the pair's previous screenplays for Bad Neighbours and its sequel (which similarly dealt with adults shrugging off parental responsibilities to behave like children), any such nuance is sacrificed at the altar of blunt-edged, lowest-common-denominator humour.

And so the action veers between puerile gags (Kate gets drunk and pees in the garden) and cartoonish violence (Scott cuts off a cheater's finger with an axe and henceforth becomes known as 'The Butcher'). There are also several ill-conceived moments that may have been offensive in a sharper film: a tasteless date rape joke, Scott calling his daughter a bitch and 'accidentally' physically assaulting her friend… twice. Instead, these are just obnoxious footnotes in a narrative fuelled by unrelenting, and exhausting, stupidity.

General release from Fri 30 Jun.

The House

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 28min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Andrew Jay Cohen
  • Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll

After losing their daughter's college fund Scott (Farrell) and Kate (Poehler) start an illegal casino in their basement. There are fleeting moments of interest in the screenplay but any such nuance is sacrificed at the altar of blunt-edged, lowest-common-denominator humour.