A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The House is an over-the-top comedy built around an iffy premise: Parents (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) start an illegal casino to pay for their daughter's college. There's more violence than you'd expect: Limbs and digits are chopped off, with spouting blood that goes everywhere. Main characters threaten others with an axe and a blowtorch, a villain threatens a crowd with a gun, and a cop plays with a gun and says being afraid of guns is "silly." A woman also mimes hanging herself as a response to a stressful situation. Both adults and high-school grads drink and smoke pot (a main character says she's addicted to the latter); in one scene, a bunch of men snort cocaine. Things get pretty racy, too: There are jokes about masturbation, date rape, a married couple's sex life, and anonymous sex through holes in a wall. Language is strong and frequent, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and much more. Both male and female characters are derisively called "bitch" and "p---y," which sends an uncomfortable message about gender roles.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When Kate (Amy Poehler) and Scott (Will Ferrell) Johansen find out that the town-sponsored college scholarship they'd counted on for their beloved daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), has been withdrawn by shady mayor Bob (Nick Kroll), they handle the news by going on a money-losing spree to Vegas with their pal Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), a struggling gambling addict. And that's where they get their big idea. If casino games are rigged, why not become THE HOUSE themselves? Within days, Frank's miserable-bachelor pad has been transformed into a mini-Monte Carlo, and the trio are raking in the green. But the casino soon attracts the attention of Officer Chandler (Rob Huebel) -- and, worse, local mobster Tommy (Jeremy Renner). Can the Johansens hold on to their cash, their freedom, and and all of their body parts?
Is it any good?
Such funny people, such weak material, such a shame and a waste. Every single person in this comic misfire has acquitted themselves honorably elsewhere, from the two main stars -- who are, of course, legends (Buddy the Elf meets Leslie Knope!) -- to the outrageous excess of the brilliant third and fourth bananas: We haven't even mentioned that Allison Tolman, Randall Park, and Lennon Parham are doing time here, too, or that The House was directed and co-written by Neighbors' Andrew Jay Cohen. Still, all that talent yields only a few weak chuckles.
Part of the problem is that the movie's basic premise is so dumb. The moment -- and it comes early in the film -- that viewers catch sight of Scott and Kate's gigantic house, all the air goes out of their dilemma: Couldn't they just move into a smaller place and use that money to send Alex to college? Also: These people with good jobs were so sure that their daughter would win the town scholarship that they never opened a 529 plan? Further logic problems exist around the economic viability of their casino (they're going to wring hundreds of thousands of dollars from their neighbors?) and of a mob boss who comes to threaten them. But viewers wouldn't be worrying about these holes if they were laughing harder. But while everyone onscreen is visibly working to make us laugh, the jokes are just inert. There are stupid comedies that are still funny. Too bad this one isn't one of them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in The House. How does the comic tone affect how you react to it? Does it make the movie funnier? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What audience was this movie made for? How can you tell? How might it be different with a different target audience?
- In theaters: June 30, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 10, 2017
- Cast: Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Allison Tolman
- Director: Andrew J. Cohen
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence and brief nudity
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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