"House Party" stars Tosin Cole, Jacob Latimore, Karen Obilom, D.C. Young Fly, and Scott Mescudi. Released on January 13, 2023, the film has two best friends hosting a party at LeBron James' mansion.
The film features the directorial debut of Calmatic, who's known for directing music videos and commercials. It is a reboot of the 1990 film of the same name written and directed by Reginald Hudlin. There's nothing wrong with hosting a party and hanging out with your friends. But when you throw the craziest party of the century at a celebrity's residence, you better hope your insurance can cover the damage. This weekend kicks off another year's list of remakes and reboots with a modern reimagining of a cult comedy classic. That classic is known as "House Party", an infectious teen comedy that reminds us why the 90s was a tubular decade. Packed with energetic flair, entertaining humor, and a strong cast lead by hip-hop duo Kid' n Play, "House Party" blew the roof off for critics and audiences in a good way. Its success resulted in the movie spawning a franchise consisting of four sequels, two of which were direct-to-DVD releases, and a LeBron James-produced reboot I'll be talking about today. Yes, you read that right. The famous basketball player is back to revive another piece of 1990s nostalgia that'll likely anger plenty of fans of the original. As if the "Space Jam" sequel wasn't enough to drive 90s fans insane. So was this party a blast to attend, or was it overly disruptive enough for us to have the police crash it? Let's find out.
The story follows Damon (Cole) and Kevin (Latimore), two college buddies who are aspiring club promoters. Out of money and down on their luck, the pals are recently fired from their low-pay jobs as house cleaners. However, their last cleaning job happens to be an exclusive mansion owned by basketball player LeBron James, who's away on vacation. Seeing this as an opportunity to make money, Damon and Kevin decide to host the biggest party of the century in the mansion. What follows is an off-the-wall gathering that slowly goes awry.
If you've watched the original "House Party" and its sequels, you'll have a clear idea of what you're getting into with the reboot. You have the characters getting into crazy scenarios during a teen party and a bunch of celebrity cameos attending the gathering, mainly ones from the music industry. So it's evident that you will be in for a wild ride. But, of course, the biggest question regarding the concept is whether it's enough to lure in newcomers and win over the original's fans who're hesitant about the reboot.
I recently watched the original "House Party" for the first time to prepare for the reboot, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It delivers on the goofy charm and likable characters, but it also represents the experience of teenage life in the African American community in an amusing and energetic manner. Interestingly, it has that timely feel to its commentary since it reflects the culture in the 90s and even today. In other words, I can understand why it gained cult classic status. Plus, it's the first time I realized that Kid 'n Play exists. However, it also means that the reboot has much to accomplish to honor the 1990 film and bring something new to the current generation. The obvious choice would be to not worry about living up to the original's expectations and try to make a fun movie. However, the problem with that is that it looked like they didn't even try at all. It promised me a laugh riot amid its wild and sexy party. Instead, I got a soulless funeral for the movie's unfortunate death.
While the story doesn't retread the narrative from the 1990 movie, it does feel a tad similar to one of its sequels, "House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute". That direct-to-video sequel also has the main character throwing a party in an expensive mansion owned by a wealthy person. Although, it does have a couple of references from the original that'll likely fuel your nostalgic desires. Having a plot that takes ideas from a low-quality direct-to-video follow-up usually spells doom for the project unless the execution winds up being more tolerable here than the one that inspired it. Unfortunately for me, the film managed to prove that point. From its bare-bones plot to the uninspired screenplay, the "House Party" reboot did the impossible in being more of a party killer than the sequels, and I haven't even watched the sequels yet.
The movie is basically about two guys hosting a party at LeBron James's mansion, plenty of crazy stuff happens, and that's it. That's all you need to make a fun and wild experience worth seeing in the theater. Reginald Hudlin, the director of 1990's "House Party", was able to turn a simple concept like that into a charming and hilarious treat with a dash of social commentary sprinkled upon it. The reboot, on the other hand, takes those elements from the original and sucks them up dry with a straw. The energetic charm was nonexistent, the chemistry between the characters was unenthusiastic, and the humor was underwhelming and forgettable. Although, there were a couple of moments that attempted to spice the party up, including a koala on drugs. Sadly, they're not enough to give me a good laugh. Calmatic seemed like an interesting choice to direct "House Party" since he's mainly known for directing the music video for "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. However, based on how he handled the concept, he should stick to directing music videos for a while.
Going back to the characters, it's obvious they couldn't match what Hudlin's cast delivered in the original. But man, could they look any more bored. There were a few instances that could've made them more interesting, mainly Kevin, who's trying to make enough money to provide for his family. Then there's Damon, a party enthusiast who eventually learns to take responsibility for his actions. Regarding the script by Jamal Olori and Stephen Glover (who also wrote "Atlanta"), the main characters sadly wound up being run-of-the-mill and uncharismatic tools used to drive the plot forward.
The actors who portrayed the characters didn't help much, either. It's not that they're bad regarding their performances. They just didn't have the right "oomph" to provide the charm and humor needed to make the party more fun. Jacob Latimore and Tosin Cole were quite talented in their other roles, especially the latter who starred in "Till" last year. Sadly, their talent felt wasted in "House Party", as their performances as Kevin and Damon were as flat as a fizz-less soda on a hot summer day. Not even a slew of cameos can save this train wreck, including the basketball legend himself, LeBron James, and the original's leading stars, Kid' n Play. These two agreed to make a cameo in this movie, probably to let people know they're still around.
Overall, "House Party" hopes to reintroduce the party to the current generation, but it falls extremely short in making it a crazy one to remember. As a film that's part of the franchise, the 2023 reboot butchers the energy, charm, and heart that made the original a classic at levels beyond disappointing. As its own movie, it's an overly tedious and lackluster gathering that's as enthusiastic as attending a work meeting. From its weak cast to the dull and uninspired humor, the film is another unnecessary remake that proves that some of the best parties should remain untouched. It's also an immediate top contender for "worst movie of 2023" unless the other upcoming films can prove me otherwise. On the bright side, the other people in my theater had a good time watching it, so I should give more power to them for handling it better than I did. If you're curious about watching this movie, I recommend waiting until it's on HBO Max for free since it was originally planned as an HBO Max original. Otherwise, you're better off watching the 1990 film instead.