In the same way we can instantly recall the cinematic language and precision staging of a Quentin Tarantino film, the ramshackle, improv, masculine chaos of a Judd Apatow dramedy or the comedy of errors love story of a gilded Woody Allen romp, there’s such a thing as a distinctly identifiable Will Ferrell comedy.
It’s a very studio-flavoured beast, there’s a very marketable sitcom premise, and Ferrell again plays Ferrell, the slightly dumb but well-meaning straight man against a comic foil. In movies past it’s been Kevin Hart (Get Hard), Mark Wahlberg (The Other Guys), Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign), Mark Wahlberg again (Daddy’s Home), Jon Heder (Blades of Glory) and many more.
When Scott (Ferrell) and wife Kate’s (Amy Poehler) beloved daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) gets into the university she’s dreamed of but they discover they have no money to pay for it, they take drastic steps.
Their slovenly neighbour Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) convinces them they should all operate an illegal underground casino in Frank’s house since his wife has moved out, and soon it’s the unofficial talk of their sleepy hometown hamlet, getting the attention of the crooked town administrator Bob (Nick Kroll).
He becomes determined to shut them down, which provides the thrills of the third act denouement, but until then it’s been an extended series of skits about buttoned downed suburbanites moonlighting as Scorsese-inspired, misbehaving crims at night.
There are more laughs than the irascible “Rough Night”, which was in cinemas at the same time, but it’s still another Will Ferrell comedy, written, constructed and trademarked with everything that always works about his movies but which always feels a little bit tired and overwrought.