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The House (Blu-ray Review)

You may not have known it, but Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler starred in a comedy together this year. It was The House, the kind of film that takes a fun premise and drowns it in extended takes that yield the funniest isolated results but don’t do much to make the film gel together as a whole. Not screened for critics and released with no fanfare, the film was a bomb and fell on the lower end of the spectrum for comedies headlined by Ferrell in particular. Now it is available on Blu-ray and the film is as suspected – perfectly fine for watching once, because of how many funny people are involved.

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Film:

Ferrell and Poehler star as Scott and Kate Johansen, a suburban couple who have just lost out on a full-ride college scholarship for their daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins). The only solution? Work with their gambling addict friend Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to put together a Vegas-style casino in his home and make a ton of money, because the house always wins. This invites plenty of trouble, most notably from other crime lords (Jeremy Renner) and an awful city councilman (Nick Kroll).

Listing out the rest of the cast would make it apparent that The House seems all about providing small spotlights for a lot of funny people who are not quite huge stars. Comedians including Rob Huebel, Cedric Yarbrough, Andrea Savage, Lennon Parham, Kyle Kinane, Rory Scovel, Michaela Watkins and many others all pop up here. They fully make the audience aware that they are being invited to mainly laugh at the silly characters in what functions more like a long comedy skit than anything else. This may not be unlike other modern (and classic) comedies, but the ones that stand out do so because the central story and/or characters are given the right amount of attention.

Even compared to one of the lesser Ferrell films such as Semi-Pro (which has a solid dramatic arc for Woody Harrelson), The House misses its mark because it can’t even hold onto more than the basic premise. This is a film that just runs through the motions of a story and hopes the various improve moments from the cast can make up for what’s not there. It doesn’t help that the jokes do not land all that hard and the momentum for this 88-minute film (plus credits and a gag reel) is dangerously low for a comedy.

As leads, Ferrell and Poehler are having fun and making the most out of what they have. Even if they go for too much shock humor at times, there is something fun about seeing these two directly reference notable gangster films as far as getting influenced by their casino’s success. Better than any of this, however, is Mantzoukas, who continues to be one of the more electrifying comedic performers working today. Giving him the role of what is essentially the third lead means getting a ton of the wild energy that he brings to all of his parts. Somehow, more Mantzoukas has yet to mean too much Mantzoukas, so I can only hope a project that is all his own comes his way soon.

There is not too much to The House. It’s a very throwaway comedy that allows funny people to be funny, but not in a way that will stick like other Ferrell films. The premise is fun for a while, but little happens to make it any more interesting, even when presented with some neat ideas for social commentary (since Adam McKay has gone off to prestige land, it feels like Ferrell will be missing that satirical element that makes his best comedies stick out). It’s fine for a watch, but The House is not one that needs repeat visits.

 

Video:

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: The House is the kind of flash production that tries to make fun of suburbia by using random slow-motion and comedic forms of stylish cutting. While that may or may not be effective in the film, it does allow for plenty of visual dynamism in the video presentation on this Blu-ray. Especially with the casino aspect, there is a lot to enjoy in the detail work of a simple home being turned into a place for people to gamble, drink and go out of control.

Depth: The casino floor best gets across the level of dimensionality present, as the image is certainly not flat.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and inky. No signs of crush.

Color Reproduction: Colors pop in this film. Given the casino aspect, again, the film relies on colors to sell that experience and they come out well.

Flesh Tones: Good detail work when it comes to facial textures. The best example is a fight scene that utilizes a lot of close-ups.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing.

 

Audio:

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital, French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The level of sound is fully realized on this disc. It’s a film largely driven by dialogue spoken or yelled between characters and the range works as needed. The use of montages also means getting a lot of soundtrack cues and they come across well without every feeling distorted.

Low-Frequency Extension: It’s only when the music comes in that the LFE channel gets a bit of a bump, but it’s there in small doses.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a center-heavy feature, but the audio is spread across and balanced well enough where necessary.

Dialogue Reproduction: All of the dialogue is heard loud and clear throughout.

 

Extras:

A film like this doesn’t need extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes. What we get instead is a vast supply of alternate, deleted and extended takes, showing just how much the film was culled from improvised bits and cut down to a manageable length.

Features Include:

  • The House: Playing With A Loaded Deck (HD, 12:47) – A basic EPK going over the production and origins with the cast and crew.
  • If You Build The House They Will Come (HD, 13:43) – A look at how the production design was used to make the concept come to life.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 15:43)
  • Extended/Alternate Scenes (HD, 1:19:54) – That is a lot of alternate material.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 9:57)
  • Line-O-Ramas (HD, 8:41)
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film

 

Summary:

As mentioned, there is nothing about The House that makes it terrible, but the film has little else going on for it. A lot of funny people got to be funny, but they’ve been more amusing in more memorable projects. It was an excellent time for Mantzoukas to shine through. The Blu-ray is fine as well, with a strong technical presentation and plenty of additional material to show just how talented the performers could be in delivering various lines. The House needs no sale, but perhaps a rental.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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