When a movie with a similar premise and name of a 1990s classic is released, comparisons become inevitable. Director Calmatic, along with writers Jamal Olori and Stephen Glover, have wisely crafted their own unique take on House Party instead of presenting a carbon copy. For better or for worse, their version is distinct enough to stand on its own.
High school shenanigans are now adult shenanigans. Kevin (Jacob Latimore) and Damon (Tosin Cole) have adult aspirations and responsibilities they must attend to, but their childlike ways threaten to destroy their friendship and jeopardize their families and their future. The movie sees them in a 12th-hour crunch to raise money to stay afloat.
Their situation gets worse as they are both fired from their house cleaning jobs, but not before being tasked with cleaning one last mansion. The oversized clothes, “smart” beds, luxury cars, and trophy rooms in the house lead them to realize that they’re servicing none other than basketball megastar Lebron James’s mansion.
Damon, who also runs a struggling event promotion business, convinces Kevin that to host a party. The King of basketball’s abode is away on a meditation retreat, and this will be a lucrative venture. With the help of Kevin’s crush Venus (Karen Obilon), the partners begin making their preparations. They need to ensure James does not find out and there are no suspicions among “his” guests.
The titular party does not begin until almost an hour has passed. Pacing is an issue until that point but quickly pivots once the partygoers start to arrive. The secret “Off the Grid Part 2” party initially goes according to plan. However, the film then veers into the often hilarious, mostly odd, and sometimes macabre territory. There is a high-as-a-kite koala, a trio of bullies (Allen Maldonado, Melvin Gregg, and Rotini) who spew creative threats and steal championship rings, a paranoid DJ (D.C. Youngfly) who thinks he travels through time, and secret societies that engage in unpleasant rituals.
And just in case all that fails to captivate audiences, the movie includes a feast of cameos. The artists and athletes featured (with Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi stealing the show) will be recognizable to present-day audiences and to audiences of the original House Party alike. If nothing else, it is an amusing game of “Guess Who?”
The connecting thread between both House Party movies is the friendships at the heart of the story. Kevin and Damon have different responsibilities and views that eventually align to hold each other accountable. This ultimately leads both friends down the path they had envisioned for themselves. Their plight is different from that of Kid ‘N Play, but in both instances, friendships triumph.
Calmatic has not exactly created a masterpiece with his House Party take, but he has created something amusing. The movie manages to honor the source material while also honoring the old and current hip-hop scene that prevails around the time of each movie’s release. Like Hype Williams before him, Calmatic has made the modest jump from directing music videos to feature films. It is no coincidence that he includes a scene reminiscent of the intro to William’s directorial debut Belly.
House Party 2023 will not reach the classic cult status of the original. But there is enough silliness, randomness, and stupidity here to offer hilarious entertainment. Just remember to check your brain at the door when entering this house party.