Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler star as desperate parents Scott and Kate Johansen who, along with their luckless neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), start an underground casino in Frank’s repossessed house. The Johansens need money quickly to pay their daughter’s college tuition, after the local town council takes the full scholarship it promised her and redirects the funds to build a new community swimming pool. As for Frank, he wants to get his house and estranged wife back. This bit of risky business sounds like a surefire bet for hilarity, right?
You might think so given the talent involved, but nothing works in this total misfire. If the sight of Poehler pulling down her pants and peeing on a lawn or upchucking in a container store sounds like comic heaven, or watching Ferrell get a bucketful of blood sprayed in his face when he cuts off a guy’s finger appeals to you, then, by all means purchase a ticket. Oh, there are also date rape and cancer jokes thrown in for good measure.
Once the casino is up and running, it proves to be quite successful. Money is rolling in and the trio add fight nights, standup comics, massage rooms, and an outdoor club. How no one notices this in a quiet suburban neighborhood is never explained. Another inexplicable thing is why the movie suddenly turns into a bizarre version of The Sopranos late in the game, with Scott, now known as the Butcher, whacking off a cheater’s finger with an axe and the trio mercilessly beating up anyone in town who looks at them sideways. It’s all supposed to be funny, but it’s just mind-numbingly stupid.
Early in the movie, Scott, Kate and Frank go to Las Vegas where they lose all their money playing craps. It’s then that Frank gets the brilliant idea to turn his house into an illegal casino that the three of them will run and split the profits. After all, Frank says, “the house always wins.”
Not this time.