CONTAINS SPOILERS AND SURPRISE
Cards on the table: I have never been a Will Ferrell fan. Talladega Nights was only watchable when Sacha Baron Cohen came on doing a comedy gay Frenchman act; Anchorman had some agreeable 70s retro detail about it; Anchorman 2's only decent joke was from Harrison Ford. Bewitched... well, that happened as well. He seems to specialise in shouty blowhard characters that felt like they belonged in a TV sketch show: characters who have a natural lifespan of two minutes and are (theoretically) watchable for that period. It's a pity because I rather liked Stranger Than Fiction and the funny half of Melina And Melinda: they're the ones where Ferrell seems to be playing an actual person rather than a howling idiot who doesn't know when to stop, but they're also the ones that are comedy dramas rather than just plain comedies.
The House is one of Ferrell's overt comedies where he's playing a human being and not a sketch character: the surprising end result is that it kind of works. It's not hilarious and I don't ever need to see it again, but I'll take it over another Ron Burgundy any day. Ferrell and Amy Poehler discover they can't afford to send their daughter to college, so they set up an illegal casino in their deadbeat friend's house; ultimately attracting the attention of zealous cops, mobsters (cue cameo appearance of the "What's HE doing in this movie?" variety), and the corrupt head of the town council who withdrew the scholarship offer in the first place...
There is some fun to be had with Ferrell's transformation from ordinary Dad to hatchet-wielding enforcer in sharp suit and slicked-back hair and, given that I don't have much of a sense of humour while simultaneously being easily amused, I did laugh a couple of times. And in comparison to a film like Fist Fight it's peak Marx Brothers. But is that really enough: generating some mild to moderate amusement and being better than something utterly wretched? On the Ferrell scale this scrapes a seven, but on a more general cinematic comedy scale it's a three at very, very best.