House Party

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
House Party Movie Poster Image
'90 hip-hop comedy marred by gay slurs. Lots of cursing.
  • R
  • 1990
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

Man shoots a gun at teens he thinks are spying while he's having sex. While in jail, Kid escapes the prospect of being gang-raped by turning the experience into a song. Bullies rough up Kid during an altercation in the school cafeteria. One of these bullies nearly burns a house down filled with partygoers by dumping gasoline along the side of the house. 

Sex

Lots of sex talk. Teens inadvertently spy on a man and woman having sex in their bedroom -- the man moans and talks loud about the woman's "p---y." Teen boy and girl are on the verge of having sex in her bedroom -- she takes her bra off, he's about to put on a condom -- before her parents get home. One of the lead characters has rows and rows of scantily clad women on his bedroom wall; in the center is the road sign "Slippery When Wet." Teen boy accuses another teen boy of "c--kblocking" him at the party. Kid makes fun of homosexual sex. 

Language

"F--k" and variations frequently used. In a jail scene, Kid escapes what appears to be impending prison rape by mocking homosexuals while rapping; he makes joking references to AIDS, Rock Hudson, and Liberace. Homosexuality is a put-down in a rap battle between Kid and Play. One of the bullies uses the word "f--got" to describe Kid. "N" word, "s--t," "p---y," "c--kblocking," "d--k," "ass," "damn." Police officers use the word "Negro." "Retarded" used as an insult. 

Consumerism

Jell-O, Brut, Kool-Aid, and Olde English Malt Liquor products clearly seen. K-Mart referenced. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking at the house party, but the one character who is the most enthusiastic about drinking is shown stumbling and passed out. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that House Party is a 1990 comedy in which Kid and Play are teens who throw a house party. While some of the comedy has held up, using homophobia as a punchline hasn't. In a rap battle between Kid and Play, being gay is something to be mocked. One of the bullies often uses the word "f--got." In perhaps the most shockingly dated scene, Kid is in jail and spurns what appears to be a near prison rape by rapping about how he isn't gay while making jokey references to AIDS, Rock Hudson, and Liberace. Frequent profanity, including the "N" word, "f--k," and "p---y." There's some drinking at the party, and the one character who is the most enthusiastic about drinking is later shown to be stumbling and passing out while everybody else is having fun. Some sex; teens inadvertently witness a couple having sex in their bedroom and the man is very loud as he grunts and talks about his wife's "p---y." Teens almost have sex -- Kid takes out a condom while his girlfriend starts to remove her bra -- but they stop when her parents get home. Some bullying: Bullies verbally taunt Kid and then rough him up in the school cafeteria. This movie launched a series of sequels, and a remake is in the works via LeBron James' production company. 

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What's the story?

In the high school cafeteria, Play (Christopher Martin) tells his best friends Kid (Christopher Reid) and Bilal (Martin Lawrence) that since his parents are out of town, he wants to throw a HOUSE PARTY. Kid then gets into an altercation with the bullies Stab, Pee-Wee, and Zilla that results in Kid getting sent to the principal's office. A pink slip will be sent to his house informing his father of his misbehavior. The pink slip arrives shortly after Kid's father (Robin Harris) reluctantly agrees to allow Kid to attend the party. Undaunted, Kid sneaks out, but is pursued by the three bullies, who attract the attention of two bumbling racist cops. But when he does get to the party, Bilal is the DJ, and he dances with the fickle Sharane, the girl he wants to be with, but then gets to know Sidney, who seems much more down-to-earth. Kid must choose between the two, and as the night goes on and he ends up in deeper trouble, he needs the help of his friends to bail him out, literally. 

Is it any good?

This movie has held up in some ways, and in other ways, it hasn't held up at all. Parents viewing the '80s and '90s movies of their childhoods through 21st-century eyes can add House Party to the movies that have moments of iffy content that are downright shocking nowadays. But on the other hand, scenes satirizing the relationship between the police and the African American community remain relevant, and practically every grumbling mumble out of the mouth of Kid's father (played by the late Robin Harris) remains hilarious.

There are some moments of real nostalgia for the kitsch of the time: the fashions, the music, and Kid's "eraserhead" hairstyle. Aside from the homophobia, House Party has earned its place in the teen party/coming-of-age pantheon. Not monumentally groundbreaking, but it lives up to the title, and for the most part, still entertains. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about "teen party" comedies. How does House Party compare to other teen party movies in terms of the relationships between teens and adults, relationships, sex, drinking? 

  • How is the relationship between the police and the African American community satirized in this movie? How does this humor seem relevant today? 

  • How does the movie address the challenges adults and kids face in single-parent homes? How does the movie present deeper messages and themes through direct and subtle ways? 

Movie details

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