House Party

I totally get why they named this movie House Party: it is, after all, about a party that takes place in a house. However, I do wish that New Line Cinema had picked a less generic title for this film. "House Party" makes this sound like a cheesy teen comedy about some too cool for school kids that are trying to throw a big party while their parents are out of town where the only stakes are "will mom and dad find out that I abused their trust and wrecked their house?" Now, a film with that plot isn't automatically unwatchable - I mean, Superbad is pretty much in that ballpark and I will ride for that until I die - but my expectations for that sort of movie are still very low. They tend to be cookie cutter films that are only appealing if you happen to be a teen, which I definitely am not.

Fortunately, House Party is not that movie. It is actually much closer to a 70's film than a 90s film in that it's much more about character and ambiance than plot. The meat of the story is about two young men played by the rappers Kid and Play and their attempts to hook up with two of their female friends, and the film focuses on the ins and outs of their relationships in a surprisingly mature way. For example, there are a few scenes where both Kid and Play are flirting with Sharane who is considered to be "the easy one" because the more proper Sidney has refused to dance with either of them, but the script isn't wholly on the boys side, nor is it interested in slut-shaming Sharane. Instead, it follows those scenes up with several dialog scenes between Sharane and Sidney where they talk about how Sharane's excessive flirtation effects the dynamic of their friendship, and those conversations end up bringing up some real class issues, since Sharane lives in the hood while Sidney lives in a really nice suburban house.

Indeed, House Party is surprisingly political for a movie that's ultimately a silly comedy about  teens that are trying to get busy. One of the running subplots concerns some racist cops who stop every black male they see strolling on the streets to harass them, and those scenes are definitely "kidding on the square", meaning that they are using jokes in the service of making a serious point. The cops are slightly cartoony (they let Kid go after they realize that they just run out of donuts)... But they are still threats (they definitely beat up three young men who are in handcuffs, although that happens off screen.) The overall effect is a little jarring now, in that it's hard to see something like that in our current political climate and laugh, but those scenes actually give the movie an interesting texture. They ground the movie's sillier antics by providing some real stakes beyond "while Kid end up with Sidney... or Sharane?"

Meanwhile, there is not much drama about the party itself, which lasts from about half an hour in almost till the end of the movie, but sometimes only in the background. The party starts with Play simply announcing to his friends that he's going to host a get together while his parents are out of town, then he throws the party, then when he's tired of the party he just shuts it down and everyone goes home. The parents never make an appearance and nothing unfixable happens to the house - although an unknown party does clog the toilet. Like I said: this movie is definitely not what you would expect from a teen comedy called "House Party."

However, the real treat was not seeing the movie itself, which was solid overall but not exactly life changing. No, the real treat was that I got to see it at the Hollywood with Kid and Play in attendance, and the Q and A that they did after the lights went back on was amazing. Mostly because Kid was definitely drunk.

Actually, let me rewind for a second: during the movie I was sitting in a back corner of the theater near the door to the patio where performers hang out before they go on stage. About twenty minutes before the movie wrapped up Kid left the patio and stood against the wall behind me, loudly narrating his inner monologue to no one in particular. At one point he said "Watch out for the silhouette coming up! It's a dope shot!" And sure enough, a few seconds later his character began trying to sneak up a staircase and there was a funny shot of outline of his body against the wall where the angle of the light made his high top fade look like it was twice as big as his head. (Although I would challenge the dopeness of that shot a little bit since his hair was already as big as his head so it wasn't embellishing his natural proportions too much,)

As funny as that was, it paled to what he said a few minutes later his character started making out with Sidney. From behind me in the darkness I heard an exuberant voice shout out "Ka-Blow! You know my Steaz!" My God, it's been so long since I heard someone use the word "steaz..."

Anyway, the "moderated" panel with both Kid and Play was very entertaining, mostly because Kid refused to be moderated. He started off his first answer by demanding that his mic be turned out louder because he was "a performer" and as such he likes for his mic to be super-hot. Then he started off his second answer by saying that his mic still wasn't hot enough. (The crowd actually teased him about this a little, since a few people jokingly shouted out "Turn his mic up!" a few times during the discussion.)

Kid's stories were occasionally rambly, but he told them with energy and he always managed to find a way to pull them out at the end. One of his more meandering stories was about how Robin Harris (who played his dad in the movie) had gone to meet his girlfriend's parents and they offered him the last slice of pie and then he turned down the pie and then they insisted that he have the pie and then he had the pie and then they were mad that he was greedy. It went on a little too long for it's pay-out, and it featured a surprising number of uses of the n-word... But when Kid looked over and realized that the white moderator had turned beet red at some point during the story then Kid started teasing him for being so embarrassed, providing a much funnier and in-the-moment punchline to the whole anecdote.

That might sound obnoxious, but Kid was so obviously good natured and energetic that it was super-charming. He clearly loved the movie and wanted us to love it, too, and that helped sell me on the whole experience. It also helped that Play was stone cold sober and played off of Kid well, steering him into interesting directions when he started to skid out a bit and actually providing insights into how the movie got made. That said, Kid's animated flailing and silly perspective was definitely the star of the show, because it felt like an authentic experience, not a DVD commentary. He had been listening to the crowd and knew what we had responded to and what we hadn't, and it was interesting to see how his perspective differed from ours - especially since he expressed that perspective with the overly-emphasized speech of someone who was hammered. If you get a chance to see the movie I recommend it - but if you get a chance to see it with it's stars, well, I really recommend that.

Winner: Me

House Party on IMDB