Netflix comedy House Arrest tells the story of a willing shut-in who’s terrified to take a single step out his apartment door. It’s been 279 days. How far gone is he? Will anything push him to overcome his fear? What happens when wacky things start to go down when he finally lets people in? What if one of those wacky things is an attractive journalist looking for a story? Netflix adds the move to its growing pile of content from India, alongside recent movie Drive and TV series Little Things and Bard of Blood. Will House Arrest stand out?
HOUSE ARREST: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Karan’s (Ali Fazal) apartment is immaculate: Scrubbed clean, contemporary in style, spacious, everything just so, coasters under the drinks all OCD-like. Your home might be too, if you were like Karan, and there 24/7, going on 365. Karan’s friend Pinky (Barkha Singh) knocks on the door with her 900-foot-tall bodyguard, Rambo (Sunil Kumar). She needs a favor. She’s the daughter of a mob boss, and therefore needs a place to stash a body. It’s in a big ugly pink trunk. Nobody ever comes to Karan’s house. If he doesn’t do it, Rambo will crush his head like a snail under his size 100 boot. The perfect crime.
Meanwhile, Karan’s best pal JD (Jim Sarbh), a man-slut who’s worried about his buddy’s celibacy and maybe also his general well-being, sets him up with a journalist, Saira (Shriya Pilgaonkar), who knocks on his door for an interview. For some reason, he lets her in, but it may be because she seems nice enough, and smart, and intelligent, and definitely attractive. For some reason, her first question isn’t “What’s your damage, bro?” No, she brings up the concept of “hikikomori,” a phrase coined by a Japanese psychologist to describe people who had significantly withdrawn from society, voluntarily. So the movie asks, you know, like, what’s up with that?
There’s your conceit: Guy who seems pretty normal but is possibly mentally ill, journalist with an idea but no notebook or tape recorder or decent questions, body hidden in a trunk. It’s a recipe for hijinks, I tell you. Hijinks. Will Karan and Saira hit it off? Will he tell her what his damn deal is? Will the body wake up and therefore cease being a body? Oh lord. I feel like I’m sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Rambo! And any rom-com in which good actors (Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, etc.) are saddled with idiot plots, flaccid scripts and a climactic scene in which one character realizes they blew it and therefore runs after the other character to finally confess their love.
Performance Worth Watching: Fazal and Pilgaonkar’s performances are effortless, earnest and generally winning. Too bad they have a moronic plot jamming a stick in their spokes.
Memorable Dialogue: Saira calls Karan to set up the interview, and he warns her, “Boss, let me make one thing clear. I’m not a hermit or a samurai.” (“Boss”?)
Sex and Skin: A little bit of safe-for-network-TV between-the-sheets action.
Our Take: This is what happens when you’re enabled by Amazon, pizza delivery and grocery services. I think, anyway? House Arrest isn’t all that interested in any heavy-hitting psychology; no, it’s a mosquito-weight rom-com with pat answers for its characters’ troubles. Oh, and a weird vein of black comedy, because what happens when the body comes back to life and threatens to upend your meet-cute it’s-not-a-date date? Violently render him unconscious again, of course, and keep this your possible future S.O.
At more than 100 minutes, this is a narrative that meanders and dawdles, which isn’t terrible, considering the easy chemistry between its two leads. But it’s the hijinks, man. The hijinks. If it’s not Tom and Jerry or The Three Stooges, the hijinks gotta go. I’m reasonably sure there’s a way to make a relatively lighthearted comedy about chronic shut-ins without ’em, but this isn’t it. And they get in the way of the film having anything to say beyond the Psych-101 assertion that opening up is better than shutting down. Did we already know that? Yes. Yes we did.
Our Call: SKIP IT. You have thousands of streaming options, and House Arrest is definitely one of them. Put it on the priority list at No. 932 with a bullet.