Image // Unrated // $35.98 // March 30, 2010
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 15, 2010
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So, how obsessed am I with Scott Pilgrim? Turns out...? Kind of a lot. While I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for a theatrical trailer for Edgar Wright's spin on the series to start making the rounds, I fished Housebroken out of the Stack of Stuff to Review for no other reason than Brie Larson -- the once and future Envy Adams! -- is on the bill. Like most unhealthy obsessions, something's kind of bound to go terribly, disastrously wrong at some point, and I guess Housebroken is the wake-up call I needed to finally seek help.

Look, my life pretty much revolves around crappy movies. When DVD Talk needs someone to field a review for...oh, I dunno, Disaster Movie or Cannibal Taboo, I'm standing all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed right there at the front of the line. I've slapped on a haz-mat suit and scraped the muck off the bottom of the barrel more times than I'd care to count, so I really do know what I'm talking about when I say that Housebroken ranks down there as one of the most unwatchable, soul-crushingly unfunny comedies ever shat out. But hey, I could keep clacking away at my keyboard, or I could chuck out a bunch of pretty pictures to do the work for me.
"I found it in Mom's nightstand."

(He nudged the not-a-cock in his brother's mouth before that, but I figured my editor might get miffed if I tried to post a screenshot of that.)
"Baking and soda: two of the many food groups we have in"
"The book says we consult a professional."
"What is that smell?"
"That's the healing aroma of home sweet home."
"...or a wet hambone."
GET IT?!?!?!?!?!?!
"Skip on this, Cheese Man!"
"That's my cheese!"
"Ride it! Ride it! Good."
"That's my cheese! What the hell are you guys doing?"
"We're giving it crabs."
"That's my beautiful sample cheese!"
"Sell that cheese sample, man."
"Booyah! Yeah!"
Mommy, make the bad man stop!

Okay. Deep breath. Work through it. Keep going. Good...good. So anyway, Housebroken kicks off with Fire Cap'n Cathkart (Danny DeVito) retiring at long last. With decades of hard work and public service behind him, Pops is finally ready to while away his golden years, leaning back and smelling the roses with his beloved family. ::generic scratched record sound:: Wait a cotton-pickin' minute! How can
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he be expected to relax when his two good-fer-nuthin' sons (Ryan Hansen and Skyler Stone) are stomping all over his retirement?!?! Elliot and Quinn guzzle all his beer, they won't let him lean back in his La-Z-Boy and watch Animal Planet, they refuse to help out around the house, and these double-digit-IQ twentysomethings think trudging through a 9-to-5 job will dial down their creative mojo. See, they're filmmakers...kinda. Not really. Anyway, Pops kidnaps the wife (Katey Sagal) and drags the family RV out to the middle of nowhere, leaving the two kids behind with no food in the house and a stack of bills to pay. Y'know, chuck 'em in the deep end of the pool to do the whole sink-or-swim thing.

The smart money says you have your fingers crossed for "...and hilarity ensues!" to come after that, but no, not so much. Once they're down to sucking down packets of tartar sauce or whatever and have the power, water, and whatever else flipped off, the boys decide they need to do something to scrounge up some cash. Well, not do something, exactly, but have someone else do something for 'em. They rent out Mom and Pop's room to Sarah (Caitlin Crosby), a finger-wagglingly-kooky girl who thinks out of the box with ideas like deliberately misdelivering everyone's mail so the neighbors'll be forced to talk to each other. That rent-a-room scheme works pretty well for a little while...I mean, the utilities are all paid up, they've given the place a nice spit-'n-polish...but eventually Elliot and Quinn need to scare up a little extra dough, and that's when things get really zany!

Look, I don't like trashing a low-budget comedy like this. It's a staggering effort to get any movie off the ground, and I really do respect that, but...yikes. There's not a single laugh scattered around anywhere in Housebroken. Not a laugh, not a snicker, not a half-smile. I stared at it with that same sort of puzzled "...really?" look that was plastered across my face when I reviewed Disaster Movie a year or two back. You can definitely tell that they're trying to be funny, A lot of it's That's So Raven-grade slapstick with people running into things, a dog pushing Danny DeVito
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into a cake, shoving an old lady at a yard sale...yeah. It's pretty lazy too with bits where you're supposed to laugh because someone said "vagina" or someone's ass is sticking out, fart jokes that aren't really gags so much as just people farting, and a prick who nicknames his pet snake "Cock". The most inspired bit in the movie is when Elliot's getting a massage from Sarah, and the rest of the guys have fake poop smeared all over 'em and are jumping up and down on a trampoline to try to catch a peek. Funny, though...? Nope. And a Crocodile Hunter spoof? Really? Take that, 2002! The sight of Danny DeVito chasing Katey Sagal with a rifle in the woods -- making another bunch of campers think that he's a serial killer or something -- is about as close as Housebroken comes to anything like that, and even that's a swing and a miss. There's also some really quick gratuitous nudity that seems tacked on as an afterthought since...c'mon, a movie this dumb at least has to serve up a couple of tits. (They're not real and they're not spectacular.) The editing seems to have some sort of holy mission to steer clear of anything resembling comic timing too.

The weird thing is that there's all this low-thread-count raunch, but Housebroken has a really awkward moral streak at the same time. Elliot and Quinn are stuck with a lot of clunky dialogue like "Wow! How did Mom and Dad take care of us for all these years?!" (I'm paraphrasing here...kinda) as they learn about being adults, something the ending of the movie kind of stamps all over afterwards, but whatever. There's a lot of strangely saccharine music that plays when Pops wistfully looks at the pole one last time as he walks out of the firehouse and when Elliot and Quinn ::sniffles!:: are split apart. Did this start off as a Disney Channel Original Movie spec script or something?

Gah. There's just...just nothing bobbing around in here to salvage Housebroken at all. I mean, I really do like the cast when they're in TV shows and movies that aren't this. Back to the Future and Freaks and Geeks alum Tom Wilson does the best with what he's given as an axe-wielding, hyperprotective father, and Brie Larson -- the whole reason I picked this up in the first place! -- is cute and endearing as a klutzy, kinda hornball wannabe-cheerleader type. Still, though...? No. Not as a rental, not when it starts popping up in heavy rotation at 2:30 PM or whatever on Comedy Central...not even a little bit recommended. Skip It.

Housebroken was shot on the cheap and kinda looks like it on Blu-ray. There really are some shots that look pretty great, like that first peek we get at Danny DeVito in front of the camera. The photography is softer and less detailed than average, though, and sometimes the photography can get really smeary and poorly defined. The weight of the film grain varies, not holding up under low light all that well...the texture's a bit on the thick and gritty side overall, which isn't surprising considering the shoot's meager sticker price. A few scattered specks manage to creep in but aren't too distracting, and there's one brief hiccup where the film judders a little after cutting back to Pops in the woods. Housebroken looks okay -- it's noticeably high-def, at least -- but definitely keep your expectations dialed down.

Even with its lossless soundtrack in tow, Housebroken's AVC encode barely cracks the 15 gig mark, and I guess it kinda goes without saying that the movie's served up on a single layer Blu-ray disc. For anyone keeping track at home, there's no letterboxing or anything's straight-up 1.78:1.

Eh, it's alright, I guess. Housebroken sports an okay six-channel, 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The music's kind of the dominant presence in the mix, and it's all over the map. Sometimes it'll pack a punchy low-end and sound impressively full-bodied, and other times it seems kinda hollow. There are a few okay surround effects like rattling shopping carts, a hissing Cock, barking dogs in the background...that sorta thing. Dialogue generally comes through pretty well, although there are definitely times when I kind of wish it wouldn't. This is a decent effort for a microbudget comedy, and I'm pretty sure the way the music is reproduced sets the audio on this Blu-ray disc apart from a standard issue DVD.

No dubs or downmixes this time around...just subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.

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  • Dance Rehearsal (3 min.; SD): First up is a peek at rehearsal footage from one of Housebroken's money shots: a Stomp-ish song-and-dance number that kicks off with Elliot and Quinn making farting sounds on a couch. Sounds about right. Director Sam Harper lobs out a quick introduction beforehand.

  • Interviews (16 min.; SD): Sam Harper doesn't really have all that much to say...maybe that explains why there's not a commentary or anything slapped on here. He recaps the plot, spells out the differences between these two brothers, and gabs about the the backstory behind a couple of the flick's bigger gags. At least Tom Wilson's twelve minute riff is kinda funny. It's pretty random and quippy, tearing through everything from the Tom Wilson Helicopter Fan Club to a deflating actress to surviving on armpit cheese and red vines. Both interviews close with chatter about the power of the Internet. Were these supposed to be viral videos or something? I'm too lazy to click over to YouTube and check.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Housebroken's trailer looks like it was nicked from a 9th gen VHS dub or something.

The Final Word
Ack. No. Skip It.

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