Entertainment Weekly movie critic Owen Gleiberman takes another look at 1990’s House Party and finds it both a relic of a lost era and as completely winning as ever.
It takes place in a world so wildly removed from our own that there are moments when the whole film seems to be crying out for its own mockingly jaw-dropped and affectionate VH1 nostalgia special. Look, there’s the young Martin Lawrence, hording a DJ record collection and cutting up in a pork-pie hat. (“You’re so warm and comfy,” he tells the girl he’s snuggling, “like my Hush Puppies!”) There’s Robin Harris, as the grouchy father, dropping ancient references to Dolemite. And check out the movie’s villain, a high school “thug” who looks like Mr. T impersonating an L.A. hairdresser in a ripped Flashdance T- shirt.
[Reginald and Warrington Hudlin] made a boogie-all-night comedy that was also, in spirit, a joyfully shrewd rap musical….House Party is that now-incongruous thing, a rap movie that’s honestly devoid of nihilism. Even when Public Enemy blares during the big party sequence, the film uses the group not for its militancy but for the pure jolt of its electro-ecstatic groove. Here, though, is something that doesn’t date — or, at least, looks just about as impressive now as it did then. When Kid ‘N Play launch into their big middle-of-the-living-room rap duel, the rhymes may be a tad corny, but they’re also right in the volatile tradition of hypnotic urban improv twistiness that would mark the two most seismic rap artists to come, Jay-Z and Eminem.