This Party Is a Bust

I feel like it’s the universal language of a party movie to have the audience want to be at the party or at least feel like they’re at the party. We’ve had those nights with friends where we have a few drinks and watch something like The Hangover gold Bridesmaids and lament “why can’t our adventures be like that?” One of those movies is the 1990 comedy house party starring Kid ‘n Play. Since its release, it has become a staple in the sub-genre, it launched a franchise including two theatrical sequels (and two crummy direct-to-DVD sequels), and just last year it was selected by the Library of Congress to be put in the National Film Registry. It makes sense why Warner Bros. and New Line would want to revisit the franchise, as it’s a well-known IP that doesn’t demand a massive budget. The film was initially set to release on HBO Max this past summer, until David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, decided to try a new strategy and release the film in theaters first. After seeing the movie and hearing the audience’s reaction, maybe it would have been to keep this new iteration of house party buried on streaming.

This new reboot of house party focuses on two slacker best friends, Kevin (Jacob Latimore) and Damon (Tosin Cole), who both have big aspirations, but still live with their respective parents in Los Angeles. Damon doubles as a party-promoted and wannabe influencer, while Kevin is trying to raise his young daughter and attempting to kick-start a music career. But at the start of the film, their dreams are nothing more. To make ends meet, Kevin and Jacob work as house cleaners, a job that they’re not particularly great at, which leads to them naturally getting fired. Coincidentally, they just so happen to be cleaning LeBron James‘house when they learn that they’re being let go. With nothing to lose and a potential influx of cash in sight, the two decide to host a wild party at the home of the legendary Lakers player, full of celebrities, drugs, booze, koalas, dancing, and all sorts of mayhem.

Nobody is going to see a movie like house party for the story. It’s not that kind of movie. But people are going to walk into this movie wanting to laugh and have a good time, and this movie has very little to offer. Right from the get-go, the humor feels dated, from references to Carole Baskin and posting black squares on Instagram to jokes about the Illuminati (remember the Illuminati confirmed memes from 10 years ago?). The humor ultimately feels lazy, and while the original film has had some mighty staying power, this new installment feels dead on arrival. There are a couple of effective laughs, particularly involving a hologram of LeBron that gracefully gives out far-fetched compliments as well as a wild scene toward the third act that strangely bares resemblance to Tobey Maguire‘s scene in babylon, but for the most part, the jokes feel like they’re stretched way too thin. It is almost as if the film is having an identity crisis, not knowing whether it wants to rely on family guy-style cutaway gags, absurd humor, or just rely on the constant array of celebrity cameos.

Image via Warner Bros.

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The film practically feels like a giant commercial for LeBron James. There is no doubt that the Lakers player has done plenty out in the real world from donating large sums to charity to being a major ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He’s also objectively one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the sport. Yet, the film feels like it constantly needs to remind the audience every five minutes about just how great James is, how good of a person he is, and how he’s the “GOAT.” It’s repetitive, obnoxious, and honestly feels like an even bigger vanity project than Space Jam: A New Legacy. At least the script tried to give James’ some sort of depth in that film.

The two leads, Latimore and Cole, are serviceable enough. That being said, for a comedy buddy, the chemistry between the two actors feels almost nonexistent. Latimore’s Kevin has zero personality and lacks any sort of charisma. We all love to root for an underdog, but here, he never gives the audience anything to like about the character. He’s not the one bringing out the jokes and his arc in the film feels so wholly unoriginal and predictable that it makes him feel like an afterthought. Cole is one of the film’s few bright spots as Damon (it’s pronounced the French way, not like how you would pronounce Matt Damon), while the character is your typical knuckleheaded best friend role you’d expect in this kind of movie, Cole brings a lot of likability to his role. He clearly is trying to make the most out of the material he’s been given, and he’s really the only one there to whom the audience is able to become somewhat attached.

Picture via HBO Max

For his first feature film, Calmatic shows signs of a promising director, it’s just hidden beneath such a lazy and bare-bones script. There are moments where his style shines through, the opening montage in particular definitely has echoes of his work in directing music videos. The aforementioned crazy sequence in the third act (which involves Kid Cudi and some other unexpected and expected cameos) also shows that Calmatic has plenty of potential, but the film itself feels like it’s holding him back from making something that is truly memorable. Even the titular party at the center of the film never gets as crazy as many similar films do. While COVID restrictions may have prevented the creative team from doing particular things, maybe that was also a sign to either not do a remake of house party or wait a couple more years.

While, once again, it makes total sense why Warner Bros would want to remake house party it feels like the producers had no idea what to do with the property other than to trick moviegoers who were fans of the original. For a movie where music plays a large role, house party lacks any rhythm.

Rating: D

house party is now playing in theaters.

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