House Party (1990) — A rather tame R-rated jamboree

“Wave your hands in the air, everybody!”

Justin’s rating: Am I under arrest, officer just for getting jiggy with it?

Justin’s review: Okay, granted, House Party isn’t aimed at the Justin demographic. It’s more angled to those who are into hip-hop, rappers with horrible hair, and people mostly living in 1990. I’m none of those. Yet while perusing movie lists, the fact that there are five House Party movies out there called to me like some primitive caribou mating howl. FIVE movies about parties at someone’s house. FIVE adventures of incomparable depth and honesty. FIVE times the chance to make the rest of the Mutant Reviewers staff wonder if I’ve finally lost the last of my marbles.

At that point, I know my purpose in life: I was going to review the entire House Party saga.

Sure, it’s a sad purpose, but I hold onto it nonetheless. My journey began with the first — and rumor says best — House Party. All I vaguely knew in advance about these flicks was that they starred an early ’90s rap duo named Kid ‘n Play (your cheat sheet to remember who’s who: Play = tall hair, Kid = much taller hair) who coasted off the success of this film and their couple rap albums to star in two sequels and another movie, Class Act. Past that, I was a naïve virgin in the Kid ‘n Play world, so I threw fear to the wind and dove in.

If you’ve seen any movie that features a wild and cool party at some teen’s house while their parents are away during which a group of friends go through a series of wacky and life-changing episodes, then House Party will not be a shock to your system. Play throws a party at his parent’s home. Kid has to sneak past his grumpy Pop, some bullies, and two overanxious police officers to get there. It’s like the set-up to a bad Nintendo side-scroller (“Jump the cops for 50 points! Are you bad enough to rescue the mad beats of the House Party?”).

Weirdly enough, even though this movie is rated R, Play’s party is somewhere around the taboo level of a day care watching The Lion King right after nap time. There’s no alcohol, no drugs, no nudity, and only one room filled with about six actors and 30 extras thrashing about to the beat.

Nothing’s too memorable or quotable here; it’s just one of those disposable movies that you can watch when there’s nothing better to do. No one’s rushing to march in any parades honoring the effort of Mr. Kid and Mr. Play. The funniest stuff in the flick is whatever passed for legitimate in 1990 and is now dated horribly. The three bullies, for instance, try to come off as more threatening than Johnny and the Cobra dojo from The Karate Kid, but this effort falters somewhat when you see that two of them wear shirts ripped off from Flashdance and the other bully’s voice squeaks like an excited six-year-old girl.

Also, there’s a very young and very excitable Martin Lawrence as the deejay, which is worth it for the “Where did they come from?” nostalgia alone.

Another fun game you can play with House Party is identifying all of the slang used here in 1990 that took perhaps a full decade to make it into “popular” fashion in yuppie schools (“Get her digits”, “Frontin’ on me”, et al). Eminem also owes a significant debt of shame for trying to act like he invented the whole rap-battle in 8 Mile, when Kid ‘n Play were pretty much doing it while he was just a little punk kid. Wait, Eminem is still a little punk kid. My bad.

As the first step in my House Party journey came to an end, I found myself reassured that I was not wasting my time. There would be three more films to talk about the deep conundrums of Kid’s hair and bug eyes, and plenty of opportunity to throw a little shindig myself.

Didja notice?

  • The camera shaking with the beats in the opening credits
  • Nice night cap
  • Breakfast is more edible when not compared to feces
  • Don’t compare mothers to gardening tools
  • Vacuuming is best done while dancing
  • It’s fun watching Martin Lawrence flip out
  • Dryers look great on front porches
  • You can buy a house for $15,000
  • Alcohol is the new viagra
  • I like the grumpy guy shouting out of his window
  • How to take a drunk friend home
  • How to dispose of small dogs
  • The cons drawing straws for Kid

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