When straight people get mixed up with crime, the result is usually tragedy. Think “Breaking Bad” or “No Country For Old Men”.
But it is also possible for straight people to get mixed up in crime to comedic effect. “Night Shift” and “Fun with Dick and Jane” come to mind.
The key difference is violence. For everything to remain funny, our unlikely criminals cannot do harm. Maybe to one another, but certainly not to others.
“The House” fails to be funny because it misses that point. Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler), short the scholarship money they expected their daughter to receive, are drafted into a scheme by their neighbor Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) to help operate a casino out of his suburban home. Writer and director Andrew Jay Cohen gets some good jokes and set pieces out of this, but steers the trio into violence almost from the get go. They attack customers, hapless local officials, and even actual gangsters.
Cohen puts together a montage of this using the same song the Sopranos used for its title sequence. Instant mirth.
Even their unknowing daughter is pulled into the mess. At one point dragged handcuffed by the criminal they have crossed.
I guess we were supposed to laugh at that. And all of it. But it stopped being funny a long time before.