Every now and then, a film comes along with links to gambling. Some of these films go on to become blockbusters, even cult favourites – movies like Casino and Rain Man spring immediately to mind. While others don’t quite catch the imagination, even for the gambling-inclined.
So with the 2017 release of Andrew J Cohen’s directorial debut in The House right around the corner, could this be set to join the list of all-time classic casino films, or is this comedy one that’s best left on the shelf?
Scott and Kate Johansen have been steadily building their daughter’s college fund over the years. But as their bad luck would have it, the college fund is wiped out, leaving them with little choice but to look for alternatives. As their daughter Alex prepares to go to college, the couple are left brainstorming for ideas about how to replenish their funds. Alex thinks her parents have the money – but they soon realise they are far short.
To avoid disappointing their daughter, they lock heads to come up with an idea to raise the money. With the help of their neighbour, Frank, they come up with a solution. Frank is battling a serious gambling problem, trying to overcome an addiction to gambling that has cost him thousands. It’s then the group decide on their plan for quick riches: an illegal casino, set up in the basement of their house.
Frank’s knowledge of casino gambling is a helpful starting point, and he manages to convince the parents they can make four years worth of tuition fees in a single month. After deliberating the pros and cons, they agree to set up the venture in pursuit of the fees they need.
One thing leads to another, and before long, the gang have set up an astonishingly lavish and brazen casino from their basement, all under the radar of their daughter, other neighbours and of course the authorities. Can they make the money they need, or will it all come crashing down?
The House was released at the end of June 2017, and stars Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, alongside Ryan Simpkins and Jason Mantzoukas.
Is It Any Good?
The House is supposed to be a comedy, and to that end, it’s a pretty entertaining watch. The cast are all pretty funny, and the plot line and backdrop do provide a good basis for comic effect. The fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants style action makes for a frustrating watch at times, but you know what’s coming is likely to be funny.
Perhaps one of the biggest areas of criticism should surely be the gaps in the plot. Of course, it’s a comedy, and you probably shouldn’t take it too seriously. But to entertain the notion for a bit longer…
These parents blew the college fund, and saw a stark choice between not sending their daughter to college, or opening up a casino in their basement. This is not one of those everyday, either/or scenarios – students loans, scholarships, or just saying they can’t afford it are all options open to the couple, but inexplicably just aren’t entertained. I suppose you can probably forgive them – without their frankly crazy decision, much of the comic backdrop would get lost.
Then there’s the small issue of running a casino, undetected, from your basement. This isn’t just a tatty old roulette wheel in the corner, or a few shifty guys playing poker – it’s a full-blown mini-Vegas resort, complete with pool parties, ‘Fight Nights’, salons, the works. They even do up the basement (apparently with no concern about the additional investment), to look as close to the real thing as they can.
Operating all this under the nose of virtually everyone not involved in the casino is a staggering achievement, arguably more impressive than actually earning the money they need. It’s definitely not a serious film, and you’re not supposed to believe it could actually happen, but they could probably have done a tighter job in covering over these plot holes.
That aside, this actually is a funny film. Cohen’s debut in the director’s chair probably won’t go down as one of the all-time cinematic greats, but it will be an enjoyable watch when it does finally hit screens nationwide. For the most part, it’s standard Will Ferrell fare, but if you’re interested in casinos and gambling, that definitely adds some extra interest into the mix.
It’s a fun watch, and you do find yourself rooting for the family as they grow their enterprise and chase their dream, on behalf of their unsuspecting daughter. Just don’t go into it expecting another Casino.