A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"House Party" is first of all a musical, and best approached in that spirit. To call it a teenage movie would confuse the characters with the subject. Yes, it's about a crowd of black teenagers who go to the same school and hang out together, and it's about their loves and rivalries and a party that one of the kids is having at his house. But the plot is an excuse to hang a musical on, and the movie is wall-to-wall with exuberant song and dance.
Original Hollywood musicals have fallen on hard times. The golden age is long gone, and now we get either retreads of Broadway shows or rock concert films. Only occasionally, in films like "Saturday Night Fever," "Dirty Dancing" or even "The Little Mermaid," do we get a film where the dramatic developments coexist with original and creative sound track music.
In the case of "House Party," the musical is a canvas used by the director, Reginald Hudlin, to show us black teenagers with a freshness and originality that's rare in modern movies. We hardly ever see black teenagers at all in films, and when we do they're painted in images that are either negative and threatening, or impossibly clean-cut. His teenagers are neither: They're normal, average kids with the universal desire to go to a party and dance.
The movie's hero is Kid (Christopher Reid), a bright goofball with a haircut that makes Eraserhead look like a Marine. He lives with his father (Robin Harris), a gruff but lovable disciplinarian who doesn't want to seem unreasonable but does believe a kid should do his homework before partying at night. And when a kid gets in trouble, he should be grounded.