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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The House (2017) (Blu-ray)
The House (2017) (Blu-ray)
New Line // R // October 10, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted October 22, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Another summer, another Will Ferrell comedy. It is too bad this one kind of sucks. I expected more of this Ferrell/Amy Poehler collaboration, particularly with Andrew Jay Cohen, who wrote the very funny Neighbors, directing. On the plus side, the obvious ad-libbing is pretty good, and you can tell the leads are having a great time. Unfortunately, the screenplay, which Cohen co-wrote with Brendan O'Brien, and, frankly, the movie's entire premise are pretty weak. Ferrell and Poehler are two suburban parents on the verge of sending their only child to an expensive college. When a scholarship opportunity falls through, they result to opening an illegal casino with an annoying friend to make ends meet. That sounds promising, but the chuckles are surprisingly limited in this limp, uninspired comedy.

An immediate failing of The House is that rookie director Cohen, who obviously has a sharp wit, mistakes assembling a talented cast of improv actors and letting them loose for directing. This movie plans like a damn 88-minute Saturday Night Live sketch, and not a good one. The narrative is so loosely structured that the improvisations are all over the place. We all know Ferrell and Poehler are funny, but someone needed to direct their talents toward some kind of plot or finish line. Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) Johansen are cool, responsible parents who appear to have raised a respectful, intelligent young woman in their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins). She is a shoo-in for a city council-sponsored scholarship, but a corrupt councilman, Bob Schaeffer (Nick Kroll), announces the town cannot afford the scholarship in light of an unnecessarily expensive pool and recreation complex project. Instead of applying for more scholarships or student loans for Alex, her parents trust the advice of a nutjob friend, Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), who reminds them "the house always wins." How does the idea to open a casino in Frank's house come about? Frank, Scott and Kate take a trip to Las Vegas in a three-minute montage near the beginning of the movie and shaboom, there's your plot device.

Mantzoukas' character is annoying, which is a problem since he's in nearly every scene. The running joke about Frank is that he is going through a divorce, lost his wife's car, is addicted to porn and does not shower. Sounds like every Adam Sandler movie ever. There's also variations of characters you've seen in other Ferrell and Adam McKay-produced films: Dawn Mayweather (Allison Tolman), the frumpy town treasurer sleeping with councilman Schaeffer; Martha (Andrea Savage), a sassy suburban housewife who continually tells people, "My name is Martha;" and Joe (Rory Scovel), Dawn's bored husband who goes nuts after a few shots. I think Cohen watched a bunch of other Ferrell movies, some SNL sketches and Happy Gilmore, threw all of that in a blender and spit out The House.

When the credits rolled barely an hour and fifteen minutes after an overplayed Flo Rida song blared over the studio logos, I had the feeling that this is what happens when a bunch of talented friends get together, get hammered and shoot a movie without much concern about the final product. There is a lot of wasted talent here, and, while there are sporadic laughs to be found, The House simply cannot create a cohesive comedy. Let me again make clear that the writing here is lousy, which is disappointing given Cohen's solid previous work. What saves The House and makes it worth watching on Netflix when buzzed is the solid improvisation work. It should tell you something that I laughed the hardest when Ferrell belts out, "Bucknell? More than Fuck-nell" while waiting to see if Alex is accepted to Bucknell University. Highbrow comedy this is not. Ferrell is still funny and absurd, but The House is as satisfying and nutritious as a cheap Vegas buffet.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is clear and colorful, with good fine-object detail and solid texture. Shot digitally, The House is as bright and shiny as expected, and I did not notice any digital noise or compression issues. Warner offers a solid bitrate, and the movie looks good in motion. Black levels are strong, and, other than some slightly flat photography, everything looks good.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is appropriate for this comedic material. It offers moderate ambience, clear dialogue and a nicely balanced musical soundtrack. There are a couple of neat action effects, some dialogue pans, and plenty of pop-music cuts to rattle the subwoofer. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and an UltraViolet HD digital copy. The discs are packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a flat slipcover. Extras include The House: Playing with a Loaded Deck (12:47/HD), an EPK-style making-of; If You Build The House They Will Come (13:43/HD), about the casino set; Deleted Scenes (15:43 total/HD); Extended and Alternate Scenes (1:19:54 total/HD), many of which are funnier than the final versions; a Gag Reel (9:57/HD); and Line-O-Rama (8:41/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This is certainly not Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler's finest work, which is a shame since it is their first collaboration since they left Saturday Night Live. Director Andrew Jay Cohen mistakes assembling a solid cast of improv actors and letting them loose for directing, and The House is an uninspired and unfocused comedy. Fans of the cast may want to Rent It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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