out of Five
Running time: 83
Well-acted, frequently amusing comedy that lacks the courage to be as dark as it needs to be.
Formerly known as Duplex in the U.S., Our House is directed by Danny DeVito, who also narrates the amusing animated opening sequence. On paper, DeVito would seem the ideal choice for this material, as it has the potential to be a comedy as deliciously black as DeVito’s The War of the Roses. Sadly, however, it opts for varying shades of grey instead and suffers accordingly, though there are plenty of decent laughs along the way and Barrymore and Stiller make an appealing couple.
Duped Over Neighbour From Hell
Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore star as Alex and Nancy, a young, successful New York couple (he’s a novelist, she’s a magazine journalist) who are looking to buy their own home. Charmed by realtor Harvey Fierstein, they decide to buy a beautiful old town house. However, the house comes with an additional feature: an elderly upstairs tenant named Mrs Connelly (Eileen Essell), who’s protected by rent-control. Believing her to be in poor health, Alex and Nancy move into their new home, only for Mrs Connelly to make a ‘remarkable’ recovery and to slowly transform into the Neighbour From Hell…
Chiefly notable for being the second film (after The Girl Next Door) in only two weeks to feature an Attack Parrot, Our House has its fair share of decent gags and good lines. Highlights include a scene with a loaded harpoon gun and a hilarious sequence involving a ‘clapper-switch’. The film isn’t above gross-out humour, either – there’s a particularly nasty vomit scene that will put you right off your popcorn.
Stiller’s Comedy Reputation Enhanced
Ben Stiller continues to enhance his reputation for the Comedy Of
Embarrassment, to the point where it’s almost as if he’s channelling Basil Fawlty-era John Cleese – if you want Comedy Shouting, Stiller is your man.
Similarly, Drew Barrymore is as adorable here as she was in 50 First Dates – she and Stiller make an extremely appealing onscreen couple. There’s also good support from Essell and Fierstein, as well as James Remar as a hit-man who bites off more than he can chew.
The main problem with Our House is that it doesn’t have the guts to take its premise to its logical conclusion – the comparison with DeVito’s The War of the Roses is an apt one, because the comedy in both films comes from the continuing escalation of hostilities between the two parties, to the point where you can barely bring yourself to watch anymore. The difference is that Alex and Nancy are too likeable: they never really deserve what happens to them and they’re not nasty enough to take proper revenge.
That said, there are plenty of laughs along the way, courtesy of a witty script and strong comic performances from all concerned. Worth seeing.