Saturday, 15 July 2017

Review: The House

The House
Cert: 15 / 88 mins / Dir. Andrew Jay Cohen / Trailer

This review is dedicated to the occupant of seat C4, in screen 9 of Cineworld's Leicester Square cinema, at the 12:15pm showing of The House, on Saturday 8th July 2017*1.

Now, I like to be as punctual as possible with my cinema-viewing. I aim to arrive at the doors of the auditorium itself at the start-time on the ticket, or shortly thereafter pending queues etc. I know there are twenty-seven minutes between that time and the on-screen arrival of the BBFC card (everything thereafter being the film itself). I also know that within those twenty-seven minutes, people will be entering the room on a steady basis and probably, depending on my seat-location, edging past me to get to their own. I'm fine with that (providing it's before the BBFC card), I just don't want to be that guy.

I mention this because I was pretty much on-time, as above, for my viewing of the new Will Ferrell / Amy Poehler comedy, The House. And as I entered the room, seat C4 was already occupied. Fair play, I thought, this is a man after my own heart, a patron who wants to take in the entirety of the presentation*2. Like myself, this was a viewer escaping the bustling activity of London's West End on a Saturday lunchtime and enjoying the group-solitude of cinema. What I'm saying is, this guy clearly wanted to be there as he'd arrived before I had and had bought snacks at the concession counter. Which made it all the more funny when he sat through the adverts, trailers, promo, more ads… and then left the film four and a half minutes in. Such is this man's judgement and foresight, he doesn't need to know what he then missed, he just knew when the script dropped a rape-joke*3 four minutes into the run-time that it's not going to get any better than this.

To be fair, I knew that as well, but I can't review a film after only watching the first scene. If I'm going to objectively hate something, I want all the evidence.

Scripted Joke Interlude #1
Middle-aged parents KATE and SCOTT are walking down their drive, explaining to their teenage daughter ALEX that taking drugs in college is a bad idea.

ALEX: But you're always saying how you smoked a lot of pot and peed outside in college?

KATE: Okay, they used to call me 'smoke a lot of pot and pee outside Kate'...

This is the first verbalised joke in THE HOUSE. The conversation moves on after this, the second line was the punchline. It was a joke. This is the bar that the film sets itself. A bar that the film spend the rest of its mercifully-short runtime smashing its own face into, hoping to raise laughs from the audience in lieu of words.

Now, you may be tempted to judge this film by its trailer, and save yourself 85 minutes. You're free to do that, but I assure you that the 2½ minutes of the promo necessitate a tightness of editing and brevity of dialogue that the completed film does not even know is possible. From the initial scene mentioned above, this is a screenplay full of placeholder lines where the jokes should be; where every plot point is explained three times in immediate succession by different characters, then explained again three scenes later. The needless repetition and verbal floundering is a sign of poor ad-libbing and even worse editing. It's only 88 minutes long. Including the credits. Imagine being writer/director Andrew Jay Cohen and not even coming out with enough footage to cross the line of an hour and a half.

This ridiculous mess of a movie is so staggeringly sub-par that even the likes of genre stalwarts Melissa McCarthy and Tina Fey haven't put their names down to appear in cameo roles. Although they could well be in entire plot-strands which have been cut from the movie, so disjointed and erratic is the final product. Ironically, the choreography in the brief fight sequence is executed with an enthusiasm and efficiency that the screenplay writers can barely dream of. Jeremy Renner (yes, the Avenger) turns up in act III as a criminal overlord for some reason, executing the same regretful grimace and decision-making process that led him to appear in a series of British TV adverts for mobile phone contracts. He's no Winston Wolf, that's for sure.

Scripted Joke Interlude #2
Middle-aged parents KATE and SCOTT are walking around The Container Store with their teenage daughter ALEX. We know it is The Container Store because there is a sign on the front of their shopping trolley which reads "The Container Store" and also because there are containers of varying sizes on shelves and standalone displays. This is the setup for a joke. Suffering from a severe hangover, KATE reaches onto a nearby display to grab an opaque container. She removes the lid and vomits violently into the box (vomit unseen by audience).

KATE: …it's a good job this is The Container Store and there are containers everywhere.

SCOTT then opens the front of a container about the size of a coffin and jumps in for no reason, tipping it over. The scene ends.

Amongst about a hundred other poorly conceived ideas, the film has a scene featuring a generic US Club-Standup™ playing to an audience of one, who's finding the act absolutely hilarious while observers look on blank-faced at the below-average execution of it all. It's a pretty good allegory for the screening I was in as I only heard one other audience member make any noise of humorous appreciation throughout, and even that wasn't enough to make you think the person was watching 'a comedy film'.

I yearn now for those sweet, heady days when I thought that C.H.i.P.s. would be the worst comedy I'd see this year. On the Hollywood career-ladder, The House is a film you make on the way down. Utter, utter shite.

The cruellest touch might be the the eventual and uncomplicated title card proffering the words "THE END" in massive letters, raising the hopes of the audience like a hostage hearing a police siren outside of the building in which they're being held. This card is immediately followed by a slew of shit out-takes from the film, feeling like the siren tailing off down the street to some other crime-scene. To be fair, at least this is a sign that you can leave the room.

Unless you're the lucky holder of ticket "C4", in which case you need no such permission…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
In the dysfunctional family of studio-comedy, this is the inbred sibling of Sisters.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No. Absolutely not.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
No. Absolutely not.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Amy Poehler is better than this.
Will Ferrell isn't

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shall ask you, loudly and in a public space, to explain yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.
There was a one in the VW Golf GTE advert which ran immediately before the film, but a) that doesn't count and b) even if it did, this film doesn't deserve for that to count.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Speaking of before-film activities, while two of the trailers which ran in front of The House ('Geostorm' and 'Rough Night') feature no familiar faces from the GFFA, the others were for Logan Lucky (with Adam 'Kylo Ren' Driver), American Made (with Domhnall 'General Hux' Gleeson) and Detroit (with John 'Finn Boyega). And I only mention this because when you think of the difference in subject and tone between those films, it illustrates that the distributors have no fucking clue who's going to be watching The House.

So anyway it's a Level 2: Amy Poehler's in this, and she was the voice of Joy in that Inside Out, alongside John 'Derlin' Ratzenberger, Frank 'Yoda' Oz, Bill 'BB-8' Hader and Jim 'has done voice-work in eight Lucasarts SW video games' Ward.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
Yes. One.

*1 I don't facetiously mean myself here, I was in seat B7. [ BACK ]

*2 It's not like I sit there myself like an eager puppy for just under half-an-hour, gazing in awe at TV adverts shown on a big screen. But I'll use that time to check-in on Facebook/Twitter, and on a day like today prepare something to scribble on as I'll be seeing another film almost immediately afterwards. Plus, I enjoy watching the trailers when I've finished arseing about doing all that (more on those trailers later, though). Those twenty-seven minutes are my get in the zone time. [ BACK ]

*3 And the intended get-out from writers Brendan O'Brien and Andrew Jay Cohen seems to be "oh, it's okay because it occurs during a conversation between two teenage girls, so that's okay", irrespective of how flippant and tasteless it would be coming from any character in this film. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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