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House! Review

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The La Scala bingo hall is on the verge of being shut down, thanks to a mega gaming parlour opening just down the road. Linda (Macdonald) is one of La Scala's employees fearing for a job she loves - until she realises that she has an uncanny ability for predicting the game...

★★★★

You can almost hear the groans start as soon as the words, "And here's another lottery-funded Brit flick..." are spoken. They seem to be like buses; you wait ages for one and then three turn up at the same time. And, very much like buses, they can be a bit grotty, disappointing and not at all what you were waiting for in the first place.

Every other 'nice' film since the release of The Full Monty has been burdoned with the tag of "the next Full Monty!", and sadly Kemp's effort has not managed to escape this. Yes, you could describe this as a regional-set, small-scale comedy dealing with local issues, but that would be selling it short; House! is a charismatic, audience-friendly film refreshingly directed by the Emmy and BAFTA-Award winning Kemp.

Opening with a Reservoir Dogs pastiche of four determined old ladies setting off to the bingo, Kemp keeps the pace steady throughout, throwing in nifty visual tricks to lift it above the average. Kelly Macdonald is Linda, devoted to her job at the ailing La Scala bingo hall and battling with her aunt, a frantic Margolyes, for the ownership of her home. La Scala's fortunes through the century - from music hall to cinema and bingo hall - have all been witnessed by manager Mr. Alanzi (Jones), and now he's at his wits' end trying to come up with a scheme to defeat the newly-opened Mega Pleasure Bingo Complex. But Linda has a gift that could change their fortunes.

Perfectly cast, Macdonald makes a charming lead, a heroine to root for, while the supporting characters really flesh out the story. There's also a less predictable feel than your run-of-the-mill feel-good film and the spirit of what makes a place special is realistically captured, with nice asides about the changing face of mass entertainment in the last 100 years. Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Unfortunately saddled by an over-crowded genre, this hits the jackpot in terms of laughs, characters, performances and sheer likeability.