'House Party' review: Worth the invite
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
A remake worthy of its roots, Calmatic’s energized, thinly veiled “House Party” isn’t the bash of a lifetime, but there’s plenty of amusement on hand. Built on the back of producer Lebron James, who doesn’t have much screen-time but whose presence is felt throughout, “House Party” plays with a crowd which is iconic considering the film was originally slated for an HBO Max debut before Warner Bros. Discovery pivoted towards theaters. It’s easy to see why: the cameo-filled movie lends itself to the communal experience and the swings screenwriters Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori take wouldn’t play as well on the small screen. It’s no “Project X” but so few are.
One can acknowledge the movie’s flaws while also understanding the overall intentions. So when the plans of childhood pals Kevin (Jacob Latimore) and Damon (Tosin Cole) to throw a lavish, uber expensive party at Lebron James mansion comes to fruition, you’re best not to look underneath the surface of how ridiculous that sounds. Wouldn’t the alarm system go off? Wouldn’t James have a contingent security protocol that could halt two stoners from pulling off the impossible? It’s a give and take, but “House Party” throws a solid shindig, plus the actors, especially Cole, are having a good time. Their presence is infectious, which makes it easier to look past the film's obvious logistical hurdles.
The main event is filled with many twists, surprises and musical guests. Calamtic, directing his first feature, is known for a robust music video and commercial career (he directed the “Old Town Road” music video and countless Super Bowl ads) and he brings much of the same sensibilities to “House Party” where the plot isn’t as important as the action around it. Gags involving a stoned marsupial and Scott Mescudi taking our main duo into a secret underground society redefine the scope of what a “House Party” actually means. The shorter storytelling mechanics lend itself to Calamtic’s talents and having Cole and Latimore in the driver’s seat helps, even if their chemistry could use some work.
Expectations for “House Party” should remain in check (though I’m not sure anyone purchasing a ticket will assume greatness). There are several occasions where the movie riffs on much better films (“Friday” comes to mind) by introducing obnoxious side characters and underwritten love interests, though if the intention was to reach for the stars and go for broke, the screenwriters mostly succeed. The rowdy comedy probably invested too much in unearned star power and nameless cameos, but the filmmakers deliver a serviceable late night watch in homage to the OG.
Sometimes that’s all you can hope for.
HOUSE PARTY is now playing in theaters.