Written by Jamal Olori & Stephen Glover and directed by Calmatic, House Party tells the story of two freshly fired house cleaners — club promoting best friends, Damon and Kevin — as they decide to host the most exclusive party in California at LeBron James’ exclusive mansion, the site of their last cleaning job. While the film does deliver on its premise it isn’t until the later half that it comes into its own.
Both leads, Jacob Latimore’s Kevin and Tosin Cole’s Damon, shine together whenever they were on screen. Karen Obilom’s performance as Venus helped flesh out the emotional core the film was trying to convey. Calmatic’s direction crafts the perfect ambiance of a house party but even with all of these great ingredients the film as whole doesn’t hold its weight under pressure.
That weight unfortunately was one of its selling points, cameos. Many films have their cameos and most often they don’t detract from the film’s narrative but for House Party, it’s all they ever did. Many times it would feel like the film was moving towards a specific beat or fun motif but then would halt to acknowledge a cameo and jump from the joke too early to leave an impression. Some celebrities would be crafted into the story more deeply but their contribution often felt surface level for a particular character’s arc, effectively sucking away any chance for genuine emotional goals succeeding. However, there was one particular celebrity cameo that was the highlight and an honest to god saving throw the film needed and his name is Kid Cudi.
Kid Cudi plays, well, Kid Cudi in the film. He comes off as an eccentric, quiet, and sensitive artist that acts as the shaman that leads both Kevin and Damon through the third act. This entire act is almost completely different from the rest of the film as the stakes are genuinely raised and the comedy becomes absurd in a really good way. This was the moment where I found myself laughing the hardest and seeing the elements achieve their most beautiful synchronicity. Cole, Latimore, and Cudi are a breath of fresh air when they are on screen together that by the time we come to showdown with the one and only LeBron James back at the party, I could feel that energy leave.
That isn’t to say that LeBron is bad in the film, quite the opposite. It had more to do with how the film’s “LeBron” is a permanent reminder of the problem with most of the film’s cameos. It’s shallow. The film spends most of its runtime reminding you how great LeBron is and when he finally arrives, all of those comments are proven to be wrong only because it underestimated his greatness. There is barely any actual poking fun at LeBron and instead feels more like a smidge of veneration. This is across the board for all of the cameos outside of Kid Cudi and as a whole the whole film. The sense of dramatic weight to each decision feels low enough that no one will get hurt and instead feels like I am seriously just watching a House Party.
House Party (2023) is a fine film that would be fun to watch on a lazy day and better than most films out at the moment. It carries the spirit of House Party and other films like it well on its shoulders, but if you were looking for something that elevated the concept you would be best to keep waiting on the next party invite.