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The House (2017)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/10/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/6/2017

I have no trouble admitting that I lead a boring life. But, that is perfectly fine with me, as a life free from drama and controversy is A-OK. This means that while I can certainly relate to some situations in movies, they rarely "hit close to home as they say". An exception occurred when I saw the first trailer for The House last year. It arrived just as we were wrestling with the financial questions surrounding sending our oldest child. The trailer hit very close to home and nearly gave me a panic attack. If only the movie itself had provided any sort of strong reaction. (And, FYI, we got our financial issues straightened out.)

Scott (Will Ferrell) and Kate (Amy Poehler) are both proud alums of Bucknell University and they are so excited about their daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), attending their alma mater. Once she is accepted, the only other piece is to hear her name announced as the recipient of their town's annual scholarship. And she is...but due to budget cuts, the actual money isn't being awarded. The family is crushed, but Scott and Kate aren't ready to call it quits, despite the fact that they can find any alternatives. Then, following a trip to Vegas with their recently separated friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), they get an idea. They decide to open a casino in Frank's house and collect just enough money for Alex's tuition. But, Scott and Kate soon discover that they like the nightlife.

The House is a comedy which presents us with a fairly simple premise -- A couple who are desperate for money to pay for their daughter to attend college, decide to open an illegal casino. Simple, to the point, and not very complicated. Plenty of classic comedies have presented us with ideas which are concise. The key is to take those lean notions and hang many other additional ideas on them. This can not only flesh out the story, but provide opportunities for twists and turns. Unfortunately, The House forgets to do this. (When you see that Writers Brendan O'Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen also wrote Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Neighbors, it's not surprising.) Scott and Kate get the bad news, get their idea, open the casino, and that's about it. Of course, some other things occur in the second half of the film, but none of them are very surprising.

The shallow nature of the script is compounded by the fact that it feels as if many details are missing. This starts at the very beginning, as we aren't told why Scott and Kate have financial issues, save for the fact that they can barely make their mortgage. We see that they can't get a loan, but no one never tells us why they don't sell their house, which is easily worth $750K. Additionally, we aren't told how they are able to bankroll the opening of the casino. Re-visiting the last paragraph, it's not surprising that local gangsters aren't happy about the independent casino, but who they are or why they care is glossed over. Scott has a great deal of trouble with numbers and counting (which is the one highlight here), but this oddity is never explained.

But, the biggest problem with The House is that it simply isn't funny. I'm a huge fan of Will Ferrell and the prospect of having him in a movie with Amy Poehler sounds like comedy gold, but the movie just doesn't deliver on this front. Much of this goes back to the simplistic nature of the script. Many of the attempts at comedy here don't rise above a sitcom level of humor and while they may receive an occasional chuckle, there are no gut-busting laughs here. As noted above, Scott's problems with number create the only truly funny moments here. Ferrell and his frequent partner, Adam McKay, produced The House and they are known for pushing the boundaries of weirdness with their films. But, the only envelope which is pushed here is one of comedic gore, as we get bloodletting which is reminiscent of The Black Knight from Monty Python and The Holy Grail. On paper, The House looks like it would be a comedy hit. But, the pedestrian approach to an already simple premise reveals a film which does nothing to impress us. They were clearly bluffing the whole time.

The House did make me want frozen yogurt on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 29 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look excellent, most notably reds and blues, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail looks very good and the depth works well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The casino scenes provide good stereo and surround effects, some of which deliver individual sounds from the rear speakers. The stereo effects also give us some sounds coming from off-screen. The film contains a lot of music that provides deep, resonant bass effects.

The House Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Playing With a Loaded Deck" (13 minutes) focuses on the cast of the film, placing most of the emphasis on Ferrell and Poehler. We hear from the actors and get some on-set footage. "If You Build the House, They Will Come" (14 minutes) looks at the production design of the film and shows us how Frank's house was a set which was constantly changing. The Disc contains eleven DELETED SCENES which run about 16 minutes. There are no new characters or subplots here, save for the fact that the house becomes a hotel at some point. This is followed by 80 minutes of EXTENDED/ALTERNATE SCENES. We then get a 10-minute GAG REEL and 9-minutes of "Line-O-Rama", which is another group of alternate scenes.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long