Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Will Ferrell Tries to Recapture Some Magic with The House

Reviews of "The House" and "Despicable Me 3," plus local movie news and notes.

Photo by Glen Wilson. © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Village Roadshow Films North America Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC.

While we weren’t looking, Will Ferrell become an unreliable movie star.

The statement is blasphemous to many, I know — particularly those whose late-teen, early-20s  overlapped with a run of dumb-yet-irresistible comedies starring the “SNL” alum. “Old School,” “Elf,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Step Brothers” made lifelong fans of a legion of early-Millennial moviegoers.

(By the way, “Talladega Nights” is incontrovertibly the best of those films and anyone who disagrees is wrong.)

Here’s the thing, though: The most recent of those films, “Step Brothers,” is nearly a decade old. The oldest, “Old School,” premiered 14 summers ago. And more recent feature comedies by Ferrell — “Daddy’s Home,” and “Get Hard,” a sequel to “Anchorman” — have been inconsistent at best.

So “The House,” a new comedy written by the team behind “Neighbors” and last summer’s underrated “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” pairs Ferrell with Amy Poehler, another undeniable comedy titan. The result could’ve been one of two things: A confirmation that Ferrell’s stock has dipped significantly, or a return to form.

It turned out to be the former. “The House” is a definite miss.

After a nefarious town councilman (Nick Kroll) misappropriates the funds necessary to grant their daughter a college scholarship, Scott (Ferrell) and Kate (Poehler) team up with gambling-fiend buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas, who steals the show) to operate an unlicensed casino for their suburban friends. There are the hiccups you'd expect of cul-de-sac parents turned pit bosses; a wholly predictable drunk-with-power thing happens later. There are occasional laughs based on the unbreakable comedic timing of this trio, but the script is barren when it comes to jokes — or, honestly, clever writing of any kind.

The stakes never feel genuine, the premise is thin (the film's runtime is a mere 88 minutes, the last few of which are credits and a blooper real for padding) and none of the considerable comedic talents involved seem to care whether the project sinks or floats.

With luck, “The House” will be swiftly forgotten and all involved can return to form. It would've been nice if they could've done it here ... but sometimes, that's the way the dice roll.

(Listen, it took incredible restraint to only use one tacky casino metaphor. Let's just move on.)

*    *    *

In a feeble effort from an uncertain studio, “Despicable Me 3” is an animated comedy equal parts mean-spirited and forgettable. Despite a solid-enough opening chapter in this villain-turned-good franchise, the brand from Illumination Entertainment’s alleged flagship property has since been fully hijacked by the Minions, wacky sideline characters in the original film; their standalone feature, while awful, netted more than a billion dollars at the global box office in 2015. Rather than follow the money, though, Illumination here attempts to re-juice the original franchise with a bland twin-brother storyline (both Gru and newcomer Dru are voiced by Steve Carell) and an occasionally entertaining new villain (voiced by “South Park” creator Trey Parker). The few laughs aren’t enough to overcome a number of jokes that come across as petty, and a pervasive sense of angry childishness has become the series’ hallmark. Furthermore, the film quickly divides into a series of unrelated plotlines that even a half-hour sitcom script could’ve wrapped up more elegantly. Will all this deter youngsters from laughing at the crude humor and slapstick? No, of course not. Does it mean adults should evaluate whether or not the kids are old enough to see a film unsupervised, avoiding theaters showing “Despicable Me 3” if at all possible? Definitely.

*    *    *

The Montage: The 1968 concert documentary “Monterey Pop” returns to screens in a new restoration; it plays at the Harris Theater through next Thursday. See landmark performances from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and more; click here for showtimes ... Meanwhile, the venerable Regent Square Theatre has been dark for a few days due to technical difficulties. Hopefully, it’s a short-lived interruption ... It’s Fantasy Week at Row House Cinema, including screenings of the near-perfect “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Stardust,” “Coraline” and “The Pagemaster.” They’re also rolling out a new midnight-movie series, with one-show-only, Saturday-night screenings along monthly themes. The inaugural “Midnight Edition” theme is “Odd Enemies,” and “Troll 2” is the first feature ... Sofia Coppola’s latest, “The Beguiled,” also debuts this week; why not make a trip to The Tull Family Theater to see it? It’s one of this week’s features at the Sewickley arthouse.


Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Battle of The Hollywood

Dormont's historic Hollywood Theater faces an uncertain future after news of a potential sale prompted an immediate public furor.

Three Rivers Champion: Cecile Springer

A self-proclaimed “loudmouth,” Springer says her favorite part of volunteering is meeting other people and persuading them to do what she wants them to do.

Phantom Thread Is, Somehow, Both Unpleasant and Lovely

Reviews of "Phantom Thread," "Call Me By Your Name," "Den of Thieves" and new animated releases, plus local movie news and notes.

Nominate the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

What is Pittsburgh's best breakfast joint? Dive bar? Yoga studio? Local singer? Meteorologist? It's time to nominate your local favorites in multiple categories.

Amazon Includes Pittsburgh in its Top-20 List for HQ2

The list of 20 was narrowed from 238 proposals Amazon received in October. So which other cities made the cut?

Restaurant Review: or, The Whale

The Downtown restaurant is a captivating, if costly, catch.

Celebrating 5 Pittsburghers Who Built Careers Behind the Bar

Pittsburgh is a city that celebrates its neighborhood bars. In some of those spots, second- and third-generation regulars are pulling up their stools to be served by someone who started pouring drinks decades ago.

Second Chances: Crossroads in the Kitchen

People working to overcome substance abuse problems and ex-offenders discover a welcoming environment in restaurant kitchens.

How to Pamper Yourself in Pittsburgh

Looking to beat the winter doldrums? We round up the best places and experiences for a little personal indulgence.

Miss Pusadee's Garden? We Have Some Good News.

The Tongdee family now operates Burgh Thai in Verona.

The Growing Popularity of Shooting a Clay Pigeon

Skeet shooting is taking off as a favored western Pennsylvania hobby.

Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

New series ‘$1’ to be filmed in Pittsburgh

The mystery thriller is latest to cash in on the city’s filming opportunities.

Andrew McCutchen: Thanks for the Memories

It's hard to overemphasize McCutchen's impact on the Pirates and its fan base.

How to Make a Mt. Washington Wedding Proposal Even Better

A lot of grooms-to-be propose on Mt. Washington. Not many decorate beforehand.