There are a few laughs in the new Will Ferrell-Amy Poehler comedy, but they are almost accidental and surely not part of the script that seems to have been scribbled on 3-inch-by-5-inch cards in crayon.
As for continuity? There is none. The movie stumbles around like a drunk in a hallway. But, somewhere in this mess is a movie that seems to need its audience to believe its protagonists are good people with heart.
The movie is about what happens when a couple named Scott and Kate Johansen (Ferrell and Poehler) find out that their sweet, slightly clueless daughter, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), has just been accepted into a prestigious college, but with no extra money to speak of, they pin their hopes on the annual scholarship given out by the town council.
While she actually does win the scholarship, which makes Scott and Kate giddy with happiness, their hopes are immediately dashed when the mayor, Bob (Nick Kroll), announces that because of drastic budget cuts — namely to pay for an extravagant water park — they have no money for the scholarship. He also doesn’t let on that he’s having an affair with his assistant, Dawn (Allison Tolman).
In the meantime, Scott and Kate learn that their friends, Frank and Raina (Jason Mantzoukas and Michaela Watkins), have split up because of Frank’s gambling habit. One night, during consolation efforts, Frank hits on a great idea to get them all out of the doghouse: They should turn his house into an underground casino because, as they say, “The house always wins.”
What follows is a madcap mess as they put together a casino, which turns out to be wildly successful, but which also attracts the also clueless town cop, Officer Chandler (Rob Huebel), and a local organized crime boss (Jeremy Renner).
Amid all this, Ferrell and Poehler are given free rein to let loose as much off-color, cringe-inducing, off-the-wall humor they can muster. Like a baby flinging spaghetti at lunchtime, some jokes stick, but a lot of it doesn’t. Mostly, it has to do with a funny little thing called logic, which even the best comedies flirt with even a little.
So, if you’re the fan of an overlong “Saturday Night Live” skit, this movie might tickle your funny bone, but I suspect you’d rather switch the channel and bet on something else.
“The House” is rated R for language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence and brief nudity.
It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.