WHEN ace comics Amy Poehler and Tina Fey join forces for screen projects (Mean Girls, Sisters, SNL, the Golden Globes), the results are consistently and endlessly funny. Simply put, they have a formula and a rapport that works. Poehler brings that same winning chemistry to her comedic partnership with Will Ferrell (also an SNL alum) in The House, one of the cleverest big-screen laughfests you’ll see at the cineplex this summer.
Plot-wise, it’s a bit thin on the meat, but the two leads – veterans at the top of their game – imbue the material with such irrepressible verve and hit-the-spot punchlines that in no time you’re completely sold.
Directed by Andrew Jay Cohen (who co-penned the script with Brendan O’Brien), The House follows Scott (Ferrell) and Kate Johansen (Poehler), a close-knit couple whose brainy daughter and only child Alex (Ryan Simpkins) has just received her acceptance letter from Bucknell University. Cue the confetti. But when her scholarship falls through (the town council wants to construct a pool instead) and her parents can’t come up with the money otherwise, desperate times call for desperate measures.
The Johansens decide to go into business with the unlikeliest of partners – a sloppy Messiah lookalike named Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) whose bombshell wife Raina (Michaela Watkins) just left him for obvious reasons. But Jesus cleans up nice. They decide to transform a home basement into a secret gambling hotspot, complete with Las Vegas-style attractions to entice the big spenders in their suburban town who can keep a secret.
But in this town things don’t stay hush-hush for very long, and before you know it word gets out about the money-making enterprise, throwing the Johansens, their new ‘associates’, and their illegal business into a tailspin of cops, mobsters and one money-grubbing town councilman.
With their expert timing and frequently deadpan delivery, Poehler and Ferrell do serious damage throughout this side-splittingly funny flick that also explores parenting choices, human relationships, power and greed within the space of 110 minutes.
Cohen and O’Brien are talented comedy writers who know when to go for broke and when to pull back. That’s why, coupled with the sterling effort of its stars, the film hits. Superfunny and smartly acted, this House rules. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+