While I had never heard of "House Broken," I was hoping this little known picture might be an undiscovered gem. I love Danny DeVito, probably more than it's healthy to admit, and matching him with Katey Sagal seemed like a dream pairing. I had a fair sense of what to expect. Taking its cue from any number of rude and raucous teen comedies, I was expecting a bit of silly fun with the king of bad taste (DeVito) at the helm. But while this film toils in overdrive and throws in every sight gag imaginable, the material falls so flat--it was truthfully a bit painful to watch. Listen, I wasn't anticipating Academy Award material, but this frantic film is so leaden and unfunny--and it commits the greatest sin of all, it sidelines DeVito as the most realistic and tasteful character amidst a sea of hamming buffoons.
Written and directed by Sam Harper (the credits listed above on 11/13/10 are incorrect), "House Broken" tells the story of two brothers who won't grow up. DeVito plays their father, a recently retired fireman, who starts to fear the boys are incapable of living in the real world as they have zero common sense and even fewer life skills. It doesn't help that their mother (Sagal) enables their infantile behavior. DeVito kidnaps his wife and leaves the boys to fend for themselves with no food, income, or worldly knowledge. Mayhem ensues with the boys and their pack of ridiculous (but surprisingly underdeveloped) friends. DeVito's harsh life lesson results in the house being all but destroyed, but it's worth it--you know it always is!--as the boys take very small steps toward maturity. The jokes are obvious and repetitive--I watched this with 2 other friends who LOVE dumb humor and I could count the laughs between the 3 of us on one hand. There are tons of good dumb films on the market--there's a reason you've never heard of this one!
DeVito, as I said, was underutilized. I hope Sagal got a big payday because this talented actress was so stranded that I felt sorry for her. The boys were game, physical, and over-the-top--with better material, either or both would have come out unscathed. I actually like Ryan Hansen ("Veronica Mars" and "Party Down"), he's a good physical comedian but silly pratfalls can't save "House Broken." Again, I like juvenile comedy as much as anyone. I especially love humor that straddles the line of bad taste. This picture just had lots and lots of jokes and tons of sight gags--but, sadly, produced excruciatingly few laughs. KGHarris, 11/10.