It’s Will Ferrell. He’s the embodiment of Christmas; he’s a race car driver; he’s one half of a pair of step-brothers; and he’s the mustachioed newsreader we all imitated as children. And his new film – his 49th since 1995 (his first credited role was in 1997 though, as Mustafa in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) – is due out later this year, the high-rolling casino flick The House.
Apparently taking its cues from Breaking Bad, sans the terminal illnesses, The House tells the story of two parents who set up a casino in their basement (and strip club in the spare bedroom, boxing ring in the living room) to cover the cost of their daughter’s tuition fees. The movie co-stars Amy Poehler (Wet Hot American Summer, Anchorman 2) as parent number two, as well as The League’s Jason Mantzoukas, also of Brooklyn Nine-Nine fame.
Inevitably, the trailer descends into slapstick violence and screaming, as is typical with many Ferrell movies, after two minutes of soundbites and increasingly surreal scenarios – and there’s a certain feeling we’ve seen all this before. That’s not to say that the trailer doesn’t have its high points but most of them revolve around one scene (of slapstick violence and screaming) towards the end. If Ferrell is good at anything, it’s hysteria; all the better if it’s in a phone booth.
The movie, which is due out in June, joins the ranks of casino classics like Ocean’s Eleven, Casino, and Kevin Spacey’s 21 but Ferrell’s presence guarantees more of The Hangover -style silliness than a hardened gangster film. Still, it’s a perennially popular theme, as evidenced by the number of online casinos around these days, so anybody who enjoys playing roulette or Texas Hold’em poker might find common ground with The House.
In fact, the incentives offered by iGaming websites hves turned mobile gambling in particular into a $47bn industry so The House is at least on trend. A brand like mFortune offers free play on some of its slot machines, including its latest release Reel Fruity Slots, as well as giving players the option of having a free poker game sent straight to their phone. The British company also makes its own games in-house, ensuring a unique offering in a crowded market.
With a rookie director in Neighbors (not the Aussie soap) writer Andrew J. Cohen, The House is a difficult movie to judge – especially given that it hasn’t even come out yet. But Will Ferrell films work because they’re so predictable: crises turn to brotherly love, street fights become life lessons, and problems get solved by punching them in the face. Then, there’s the twist – it’s all gone wrong – but a Chekhov’s gun from an hour back saves the day.
The House looks formulaic on the surface but, given previous experience with Will Ferrell, his fans won’t care. It might not live up to the comedy of the first Anchorman or 2008’s Step Brothers but there’s enough potential in the cast (The Avengers’ Jeremy Renner stars too) to create a brief distraction from the General Election this summer.