Getting jiggy with it…at college this time.
The original House Party had our leads Kid n' Play (Christopher Reid and Christopher Martin) as high school students who had parents to deal with when trying to have their house party. Very similar to a classic musical done with hip-hop and rap, it had an innocence that brought back memories of Beach Blanket Bingo. This sequel changes tact and turns it more into a tale of growing up for Kid, amidst the backdrop of everything that happened in the first film. While it had some nice moments, a weaker script that was overly dependent on knowing the first film makes this one less satisfying. Again though New Line comes through with an immaculate picture and good sound on a standard, light on the extras disc.
Kid's father, a caring disciplinarian in the first film, played by Robin Harris (Harlem Nights, Mo' Better Blues) added a decent sentimentality to the first in the series. Unfortunately he died soon after the release of House Party and the lack of his presence is felt here. The sequel takes up that Kid's father has died and he is now ready to go to college, with money raised by his church congregation. Unfortunately Kid leaves the check in the hands of his buddy Play, who can't resist a chance to get a demo recorded at the urging of a scheming con artist claiming to be a talent scout (Iman, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Out of Africa). Now Kid has to learn how to succeed at college, figure out how to pay for tuition now that the money is gone, and see whether he can keep the affections of Sydney, the girlfriend from the first film. Tisha Campbell (Boomerang, Linc's) reprises her role of Sydney from the first film, but is now also in college and under the heavy feminist and African awareness influences of her roommate Zora, played by rapper Queen Latifah (Sphere, The Bone Collector).
Since this is a House Party film, of course there must be one, and the scheme to get the money for Kid's tuition becomes holding the biggest house party of them all, inside the faculty dining hall. This time it's a pajama party, with guys paying $10 each to get in but lingerie-wearing girls get in free. So again we have Martin Lawrence (Blue Streak, Bad Boys, Big Momma's House) as DJ Bilal, and Kid n' Play doing a rap, amidst much hip-hop dancing.
Pretty much every gag in House Party is also back in the sequel, from the character Chill bumping the DJ table to the three buffoons continuing to harass Kid, now that they are campus security guards. Much is made out of the winks and nods to the first film; expecting the audience to remember those little moments to get a laugh. The film retains much of its innocence, but strays more into a normal teen picture than musical.
New Line is offering each of the three films as a standard edition; a dual layered disc with both anamorphic widescreen or pan and scan versions. You have the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 sound or Dolby Surround. Typical for New Line, the movies look great. Even the oldest of them look brand new. Bright, vivid colors, great blacks and fleshtones, no artifacts, no flaws. It's getting pretty easy to judge video quality on New Line discs. Even this nine year old film looks pristine. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a wide front soundstage and good frequency response, but has that "typical comedy" soundtrack, meaning not much besides the score hits the surrounds. I did find that the level of the sound was pretty low; music didn't quite have the punch I expected, especially bass heavy hip-hop numbers. Dialogue was well integrated and always clearly understood, but I did have to turn my system up to levels that on another disc (and even the first logo at startup) would be deafening. Still it sounded fine with that caveat.
Filmographies for the main cast members and director and a trailer are all the extras on the discs of all three movies. That is notable only because it is New Line who usually gives more on even standard edition discs. Perhaps there simply wasn't room by choosing to add the pan and scan version to a DVD-9 disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Again, I am far away from the target demographic for this film. The jokes almost completely fell flat, and the only things in the film that actually worked for me was the music and dancing and the more touching moments as Kid grows up to take responsibility for his actions. The script was extremely weak; the whole motivation for the relationship between Kid and Sydney was terribly contrived and didn't work at all. The writing seemed lazy and overly dependent on people having liked the first film and getting nostalgia for it from this one. A sequel not only has to carry on with the characters, but it must tell a good story on its own. This one didn't.
Only fans of the series will take serious interest in this disc. The movie is a stepping-stone to the third film and in that regard should be watched if you intend to see the third. Sure the picture quality is great, the soundtrack fine, but the film itself doesn't have the best aspects of the original, and doesn't replace them with enough to carry it on its own.
New Line is acquitted for technical excellence as usual. House Party 2 is charged with laziness in the story and a lack of real comedy, and not having enough of the musical aspect that carried the first film. Fans of the film will certainly appeal this ruling, and I will not stand in their way.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
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