Having grown up in Irvine — “a very safe and literally a master-planned community” — Will Ferrell is familiar with suburbia, although he can’t say he has ever known anyone quite like the couple he and Amy Poehler play in the comedy “The House.”
As Scott and Kate Johansen, they open an illegal casino inside their neighbor’s home to make the college money they were counting on when a scholarship their daughter had earned is pulled at the last minute before tuition is due.
Well-meaning parents, the Johansens’ identity is wrapped up in their only child, Alex (Ryan Simpkins), who unlike them is a straight-A student. She has been accepted to a prestigious university, and they will stop at nothing to make her dreams come true.
Realizing they have been cavalier about taking care of their own money, the pair has little option but to accept an offer from their neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), a gambling addict looking for a big payday. Although the Johansens live mild-mannered lives as parents, you suspect they’ve tamped down their own wildness and are ready to unleash it.
Ferrell remembers when Andrew Jay Cohen, who is making his feature film directorial debut, and co-writer Brendan O’Brien came in to pitch “The House.” He says there was a back and forth over whether it should be a PG-13 or R, knowing that the studios would prefer they make the former.
“We felt that once you get into the world where this safe suburban couple gets wrapped up in this casino and goes to the dark side, the only way to do that was to take it as far as we can,” says the 49-year-old comedian. “That’s where you would get the maximum comedy. It would have felt disingenuous to do the PG-13”
Indeed, once the Johansens and Frank set up the illegal gambling joint and get a few customers, Frank starts expanding the…