Seen 11th July
When you hear the concept for this movie, you know exactly what you’re going to get. You know the kind of jokes that’re going to come, you know the kind of story beats that’ll appear… thank god this movie has incredible leads to carry it or else this might end badly.
The movie revolves around the Johansen family, parent’s Scott and Kate (Played by Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) want to get their daughter Alex (Played by Ryan Simpkins) into college. However on a trip to Vegas with their friend Frank (Played by Jason Mantzoukas) they end up losing all the college money. So naturally in order to get the money back they decide to turn their friend’s home into a casino because, as the phrase goes, “The House always wins”.
The cast is really this movies saving grace. Amy and Will particularly have enough charisma to carry the movie. The scenes where they’re the ones in control are hilarious, they bring the best out of each other and anyone else who shares a scene with them. Jason Manzoukas also really has a lot of good fun scenes, as does Nick Kroll who played Bob from the city council. He’s kind of the antagonist of this movie and he is a fair amount of fun.
The writing however isn’t that good. It’s a very simple plot line with very simple scenes and a lot of elevation has to be done by the actors. This movie was written by the same guys who did the Seth Rogen Bad Neighbours movies and it has the same issue those movies had, namely the basic script is obviously being enhanced by the performers ad libbing and when they’re good it’s very very funny but if they’re off it feels weird. Some lines just don’t land or don’t fit the tone, there is literally a scene where we’re looking at the back of Poehler’s head and I’m going to just guess that she did some improv while doing ADR in that scene cos it feels like it doesn’t fit.
Also this movie has a huge tone problem, it goes from scenes of people getting high and being idiots, to a scene with Will Ferrell cutting a finger off with an axe. It jumps between this super dark comedy to the light stuff out of nowhere and it’s a little jarring. There’s also some sub plots that are just thrown out without thought. Ferrell’s character after the finger cutting scene is meant to be traumatised by it, but we only get 2 scenes one after another to show this and they aren’t that well done. The comedy rule of three’s is broken and it’s never pushed to the absurd level that joke requires.
It’s not a bad movie, it’s just a movie that relies too much on it’s stars charisma and didn’t try hard enough to create a stronger frame for them to work from.