House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (2001) — Can’t be over fast enough

“I got my phone book, my bathing suit, the weed… whacker… cause Uncle Charles’ lawn needs weed whacking…”

Justin’s rating: Immature to the last

Justin’s review: Oh, the last leg of a marathon is the cruelest, gentle readers. Your writing pinky cramps up, your mouth is gasping in disbelief, and every single minute is an exercise in absolute agony. It’s like someone at New Line knew that one day, a mild-mannered Italian would be attempting to get through the entire House Party series, and they had an office pool on seeing if I’d falter and just quit entirely. Trust me, I was tempted. House Party 4: Down To The Last Minute might have a lean 79 minute running time, but the words “Straight To Video” never held such tedium and strained patience as they do here.

Sure, it’s called House Party 4, but what they really wanted to call it was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 2. “Hehe,” you giggle, “Justin’s just having fun with exaggeration. That‘s cute.” Um, no I’m really not (well I am cute, but I‘m modest for only saying that in parenthesis). I don’t know if there’s copyright violations going on here, but huge chunks of House Party 4 are, line for line, lifted from Ferris Bueller. It’s so bold and shameless that you sort of have to admire their blatant plagiarism. See if the following brief plot synopsis jogs any memories:

A high school teen fakes being sick to his dopey parents and gets out of school for the day. Only his sassy sister is not buying it, who spends the entire day stewing in hatred and waiting to catch him in the act.

Also stewing, for less discernable reasons, is a school teacher, who tracks our hero down to his house and does some not-so-subtle spying through windows. The protagonist meanwhile connects with his two best friends, and pulls his girlfriend out of school by — steel your body for the shock in this next clause — pretending to be her parent and coming to the school to pick her up. The kids accidentally wreck a relative’s gorgeous car, there’s a pre-recorded answering machine message that makes it seem like the person is talking to you, and the sister comes around at the last minute to “chill out” and support her brother.

My fault. There are no similarities. Please move on and continue with your daily lives.

The Ferris Bueller factor can’t be called an homage, since it’s pretty much full-fledged theft, and it’s not even enjoyable theft, since it answers the unasked question, “What would Ferris be like if he was watered down and devoid of anything remotely funny?”

Jon-Jon’s big plan is to use his uncle’s house to stage a — say it with me! — house party for all sorts of people who aren’t even extras. They’re like faceless blobs in the background of cartoons. I swear, only about six working actors got paid on this job. The only connection to the other three House Parties (R.I.P. Kid ‘n Play) is that Jon-Jon and his two dull buds are the group Immature from House Party 3 grown up into an even more forgettable hip hop group (IMx). There’s also some half-hearted attempt to actually introduce music into this music-dependent series, but barring any other actual musicians or artists, we’re left with one, just one, musical number performed by the three guys at the party. That’s where your money goes for this rental, folks.

There’s pain and suffering here the like hasn’t been seen out of the digestive system of a Sarlaac. The acting here is… well, I assume you’ve been to a bad high school play, at least once in your life, right? And you’re familiar with how the worse an actor gets, the more exaggerated and silly their motions become? That’s Broadway compared to House Party 4. These 79 minutes seal away a corrupted treasure trove of the worst acting ever seen. Everyone, bar none, overacts to the point that make most sitcoms look downright restrained. It doesn’t help that the jokes these people are saddled with come from The Big Book Of Things You Might Have Found Hilarious In The Third Grade, including:

  • Chapter Two: Fat People Are Funny And Should Be Made Fun Of How Fat And Pathetic They Are
  • Chapter Seven: People Winking Into The Camera And Talking Down To Us, The Audience
  • Chapter Thirteen: Every Other Race Is Terrified Of Black People And Instantly Assume They’re Going To Carjack Them
  • Chapter Twenty: Screaming For No Reason Is Funny, Not Annoying

There were only two moments that I found amusing in House Party 4, and I’m sure they wouldn’t translate into anything hilarious if I typed them out. TThis film is so bad that I can’t think of any actor in it who would want to show a friend or family member their performance. If all of this review can’t convince you of the badness factor, let me clue you in on THIS little fact: the director’s and main star’s next project was the immortal classic You Got Served. I kid you not.

Didja notice?

  • There’s nothing like a 27-year-old pretending to be a sick 16-year-old
  • This first scene is copied line-for-line from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • He’s got a “Batman and Robin” poster in his room? WHY?
  • Ack, he’s going to be talking to the camera a lot, huh?
  • AHHH! Man private part hair! Please say it isn’t so!
  • When a friend asks you to skip school and refuses to give you a reason, you should probably just go along with it
  • The same musical cue goes off like 20 times in a row, playing for 10 seconds, then pause, then repeat
  • The ultra-fake computer screens
  • As long as the high school office staff hasn’t seen Ferris Bueller, you’re cool with getting your girlfriend out of school by pretending to be a parent
  • The THX sound effect when the car is revealed
  • They have like FIVE kids in the English classroom… wha?
  • If you’re dressing in drag, perhaps you should shave off your moustache
  • The uncle freaking out on the plane is a incredibly stupid sub-plot
  • Amazing how he can tell exactly how much money is in a wad of bills he picked up one second ago
  • Um, why is this teacher snooping around a student’s home?
  • MEANWHILE, it’s taken the teacher about 10 minutes to move ten feet around the house
  • How many times must teacher touch her hair and glasses? A couple hundred, apparently.
  • All fat people love to eat to the point of gross excess. That’s why they’re fat, don’t you know?
  • They’ve completely recycled the doorbell joke from Ferris too!
  • AND they recycled the whole Charlie Sheen-Jennifer Grey discussion, nearly word for word!
  • They don’t even do that “timer countdown” thing until the last ten minutes of the movie

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