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Film Review

House Party (2023)

Directed by Calmatic
From: Warner Bros.
Released: 01.13.23
Review by Julian Lytle | January 13, 2023 at 9:30 AM

Basically: A reboot (of sorts) of the hip-hop movie classic; two young guys throw a house party and all types of craziness happen. 

Well, will you look at how hip-hop has gotten old enough to have a real nostalgia for something other than the music? Now, with me being one of the washed many (old head, old, etc.), when I first heard they were doing a new version of House Party (1990), I was like: “HOW DARE YOU!” But see, unlike others, I wasn’t so caught up on the purity. I’ve seen all the House Party movies. See, most just stop at House Party 2. You know, when Kid (Christopher Reid) is in college—pajama jammy jam, Chris Judge (Kratos) as the evil “nice guy.” Good times. The New Jack Swing era is in full effect. House Party 3 folks probably remember Bernie Mac in his first big breakout, but it was everything with Immature and TLC  that is forgettable. Now House Party 4 with Immature starring is trash; most don’t even remember it happened. Then there was the 5th, and the less said the better. 

So for me, there have been some diminishing returns here, and it worried me, but after I saw the teaser, I had more faith. I sat there and thought: See, I need to put more faith in LeBron and Maverick; they’re good at media. With Calmatic making the move from music videos and commercials to feature directing and a script by Jamal Olori and Stephen Glover (of Atlanta fame), I have to say these folks did an excellent job of making something that works on its own AND for these times.

Photo © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Now the setup. We have two young, industrious guys livings in Los Angeles; Kevin (Jacob Latimore) and Damon (Tosin Cole) are best friends and co-workers. They are also hustling party promoters—Kevin needs money for his daughter’s private preschool and a new place to live; while Damon needs to pay rent. Being that Damon’s carefree attitude has cost them money to some local bullies and caused them to lose their jobs, they have to figure out a plan quickly. While at work, on their last day, they figure out the house they are cleaning belongs to LeBron. They decide the best way to make a whole lot of cash is to throw the best house party in all of LA at LeBron’s house and invite a ton of his contacts. 

Latimore is very likable; he’s very much the responsible one and uses some of his performance styles from The Chi and the story is mainly told from his perspective. Now, Tosin Cole, this guy, my top companion from modern Doctor Who, is out here doing a quality LA accent. My man is acting. I didn’t even know it was him throughout this whole movie. He does well playing the opposite of Latimore’s Kevin. The confidence and, as the new folks say, “rizz” (lol, I’m sorry) of the guy on screen is a ton of fun. 

Photo © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

As much as the original is like a perfect time capsule of the New School era of hip-hop, that time is very much the past. Even the music of that time is overlooked, and as I see some Gen X folks have a hard time accepting this movie even existing, I think they should give it a chance. The film does right by the original as an homage when it should be and then goes on to become a completely different type of movie. How it jumps around, you can feel some of Glover’s hands in this with how things are treated. It goes from just a house party, and then it dabbles in some Harold & Kumar type of craziness, and then we even get a little basketball in it. But, none of it feels off or out of place.

The story is able to hold your attention and make sense even with all the cameos. Also, the cameo MVP of the movie is Kid Cudi. Cudder is delightful in playing into all the public ideas of him over the years. Completely hilarious. If there’s anything about this that I can say is a detriment is that it feels and looks like a movie made for streaming, that it was made for TV. That’s not talking about budget but about the cinematography. The shots look like they work great on TV or even a screen that fits in your pocket versus shots you see meant for the cinematic screen. But, it doesn’t take away, and I’m glad this is getting a theatrical release instead of just streaming. 

In the End: House Party is a fun and cool comedy that is able to take its classic name and become something new and fresh for now while keeping with the quality of the original.

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