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New Line Home Cinema presents

House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (2001)

"I'm from that Indian tribe, the Smackahoes."- Uncle Charles (David Roberson)

Stars: Marques Huston, Jerome Jones, Kelton Kesse
Other Stars: Alexis Fields, David Roberson, Meagan Good, Chris Stokes
Director: Chris Stokes

Manufacturer: LPMC
MPAA Rating: R for brief language and sexuality
Run Time: 01h:19m:34s
Release Date: 2001-08-14
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

The House Party series of films has never been about anything more than showing people a good time. The first three films in the series weren't classics, or even very good, but they did, at least, keep the pace moving, providing 90 minutes of likeable characters and performances, and your daily quota of funky beats (straight up!). House Party 4 on the other hand, features no fun, no likeable characters, very little music, and a 79 minute running time that feels like Cleopatra (at least in terms of an entertainment to yawn ratio).

I guess the writers thought everything that could be done with the franchise had been done. They dumped the original characters (Kid and Play), but were lucky enough to grab another has-been rap group, imx (incidentally, these kids also appeared, in bit roles, in House Party 3). So, instead of a rehash of the previous films in the series, we have a rehash of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Yes, that's right, the 1980s' classic. See it again, but this time, poorly filmed and without a shred of humor or depth. Just a sample of the story beats stolen from that film: a kid faking sick to stay home from school, then calling his friends in on the prank; a call to school officials involving a ruse to get a girlfriend out of class; said ruse involves borrowing a nicer car (some dialogue is directly sampled here); a teacher that sneaks over to the heroes house to check on him; a jealous sister out to sabotage things (more stolen dialogue, but minus the funny Charlie Sheen stuff)... I could go on. Really, the only difference is that the day's activities involve a party instead of a trek around Chicago. I guess what holds true on Puff Daddy albums holds true in film as well. If you can't find a good hook, then just steal one from Sting. Or John Hughes.

The so-called actors mostly aren't. Though the lead, Marques Huston, has been in films and on TV for the past eight years or so, he hasn't seemed to develop any actual screen presence. His best friends, played by his groupmates in imx, are even worse; their every scene bogged down by awkward reactions and overplayed sight gags. The direction from first time helmer Chris Stokes doesn't help either. This is the slowest moving comedy I have ever seen. Even obvious, cliche jokes are ineffective and poorly paced. Take, for example, the stereotyped gay flight attendant, who pops up twice. It is very, very easy (cheap, but easy) to make a limp-wristed caricature like this even a bit humorous. But when the camera just stays on the person while they obviously improvise for several minutes, well... It ain't pretty. The whole production also feels very cheap. The sets are sparse and ugly, and many shots (especially during the party) are reused as many as five times within the course of a few minutes.

This series has no-doubt lasted so long because the films are cheap to make and they yield big profits with a built in audience of rap fans. I guess they forgot, then, to include the music in this one, since there is only one song on the soundtrack. Some party, huh?

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: F


Image Transfer

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 One Two
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen 1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes no
Anamorphicyes no

Image Transfer Review: This isn't really an impressive transfer, but considering the low budget, things look pretty good. The colors look very muted and washed out, almost as if the movie was shot on video. Also, the black level is only fair. On the plus side, edge-enhancement isn't much of a problem, and artifacting doesn't occur at all. Here and there I noticed some aliasing, but nothing major.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This track has a few problems, but in the end, it supports the film well enough. Many comedy tracks are front-heavyˇthis one more than most. Only during several party scenes do the surrounds kick in at all, and even then, their impact is limited. I really couldn't differentiate this 5.1 mix from a 2.0 track. The dialogue is always clear, but it has a tendency to sound very hollow and unsupported (I believe this is because no ADR was done, and believe it or not, on-set recordings can sometimes sound worse). There aren't many sound effects to speak of, but the LFE does kick in a bit during a performance scene. The annoying synthesizer score fills out the front soundstage, but it too sounds rather tinny.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring What movies are the other trailers? House Party, House Party 2, House Party 3
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. imx music video for Clap Your Hands
Extras Review: New Line is in da' house! They've really added some dope features to House Party 4. Man, this DVD is fly!

I was expecting the selection Behind-the-Scenes to run maybe five minutes, and I was straight up trippin' when I saw it was almost half an hour. Yo, dat's fresh. Anyway, it seems to be a promo EPK stretched unnecessarily to fill space on the disc. The actors each tell us about their characters, and the director briefly speaks. Also, lots of film clips..

Three bootylicious trailers are provided, as well as some cast and crew filmographies (so you can see what other slammin' work they've done). Finally, you can get your swerve on to a music video from imx (formerly Immature), which samples, of all things, If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands. The next single is a gangsta' rap remix of the Lambchop theme song.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Don't. Just... don't. Ok?

Joel Cunningham 2001-08-02