A formula as old as the movies itself, the House Party concept is essentially a blank slate revolving around the climatic, titular event where the stakes of friendship, relationships, and or business interests hang in the balance. Entering 2023’s House Party with the “OG” Kid ‘n Play trilogy fresh on my mind, the film follows a familiar path, revolving not around high school or college kids but, like House Party 3, guys in a kind of arrested development in their mid-20s. Like Kid, Kevin (Jacob Latimore) is on the up and up, dreaming of a better life for his daughter Destiny while living with encouraging parents. He works a series of dead-end jobs to provide while Damon (Tosin Cole) bounces between his family and his aunt’s house. He’s a social media concert promoter with a modest Instagram following he hasn’t been able to monetize. His aunt rightfully points out that if he’s partying without making actual money he’s just clubbing. 

BFFs Damon and Kevin work together at a local cleaning company and, on the verge of getting fired for getting stoned and humping statues on the job, with nothing left to lose they decide to throw a party in LeBron James’ house while he’s away in India seeking enlightenment. Using the House Party formula, the film delivers much of what the OG trilogy did with zany antics, celebrity cameos, and the occasional big laugh—pretty much all we’re expecting. Those looking for anything deeper (e.g. the insight and wisdom packaged within House Party 2) ought to seek another auditorium. The political threat that occasionally ran through the original trilogy, often veering into the problematic, is somewhat present here via DJ Vic (DC Young Fly), who does take a few political shots that are, in the context of today’s rhetoric, slightly more polite than throwing red jello at Ronald Reagan’s portrait in the original edition.

The debut of music-video and commercial helmer Calmatic, House Party delivers an often funny bit of cinematic comfort food that ticks all the tropes one expects right on schedule without overstaying its welcome. While Kid ‘n Play do make an all-too-brief appearance, the original trilogy proves to be more of an inspiration to Kevin and Damon as they take notes while watching the original to study the logistics of throwing the aptly titled “Off the Grid Party 2” (named to inspire FOMO since the first one never took place) in the age of social media.

Working from a script by Jamal Olori and Stephen Glover, this update of House Party borrows so much from Reginald Hudlin’s original trilogy––right down to some of the soundtrack––it’s a shame that Kid ‘n Play and some of the original cast weren’t around as real mentors to Kevin and Damon. Rounded out with cameos by Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Tinashe, Mya, and an extended appearance by the brilliant Kid Cudi, House Party is fun enough but feels like a missed opportunity. When cinematic house parties have been getting out of control for years (see the most extreme case in Project X) this one is no doubt a banger, but not one for the ages––it all unfolds with predictable results as a lesser edition in the HPCU. Chris Rock may have said it best in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back: “This is gonna make House Party look like House Party 2!”

House Party is now in theaters.

Grade: C+

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