Reginald Hudlin’s “House Party” is a film that studios have had a hard time duplicating over the years. It’s developed in to awful sequels because the 1990 original was such a simple bit of lightning in the bottle. What worked with the original movie is that it was quite simply, a party movie. It was small in scope, had a minimalist narrative but garnered a ton of life and charisma. Watching the movie is still like going in to a party, with its great highs and sweet lows. Hudlin’s movie is still a classic after thirty years.
As for 2023’s “House Party” it’s another in a line of really bad attempts to re-capture the magic. Dubbed a remix of the original 1990 movie, music video director Calmatic reworks “House Party” for Generation Z and belly flops at every turn. Best friends Damon (Tosin Cole) and Kevin (Jacob Latimore) find themselves recently fired from their cleaning job and in a financial pinch after getting kicked off the bill of their own party by a trio of angry promoters. They decide to throw the ultimate party at their last job site—LeBron James’ house—to solve their problems, but they find plenty of mischief, mayhem, and even another elite party to crash in the process.
“House Party” 2023 is a misfire and a disaster at every turn. Everything that the original 1990 movie had, this one is the antithesis to. The energy is off, the tone is tedious, and the movie feels overlong, even though it clocks in at a hundred minutes. Another of what made the original so great was that the cast had a palpable chemistry, while the characters here all just run around bumping in to one another. Even Cole and Latimore who are supposed to be best friends barely feel like best friends at all. They rarely offer up entertaining moments where they can play off one another, and even when the script dials up the drama it just feels forced.
Kid and Play were actual rivals on the hip hop circuit, and they took that vibe and transplanted it on screen. Meanwhile none of the cast feels up to the challenge. The times the movie does hit considerable highs, it feels more accidental than anything else. The whole sense of energy is replaced in favor of meaningless celebrity cameos (although the Walter Jones cameo was pretty hilarious), all of which are inexplicable time and time again; the over abundance of Lebron James is also quickly exhausting and feels absolutely self congratulatory. Also, if they are hosting a party in Lebron James’ house, how do none of the celebrities not know or didn’t eventually discover who owns the house?
Wouldn’t the fact that he owns the house be well known in some respects? How in a digital world did no one post pictures and make it go viral? While director Calmatic does offer occasional call backs to the original movie, there are also baffling plot turns that were absolute duds. There’s the obligatory dance off that just pales in comparison in the 1990 original, there’s a running gag featuring a killer koala, and a ton of side plots that I completely forgot about once the movie was over. “House Party” 2023 feels cobbled together out of algorithms and what the producers think the modern audience will love, even injecting a pointlessly convoluted narrative that makes zero sense in the long run. Even taken on its own merit, Calmatic’s “House Party” is a dull, tedious chore, one that has no idea what made the 1990 movie so joyous.