I really wish I could tell you that this is the “Caddyshack” of college maintenance crew movies because it certainly could have been. Instead, “Housing and Maintenance” stands as a fine example of how difficult it can be to pull off comedy.
“Housing and Maintenance” tells the tale of a couple of college campus maintenance guys, Phil and Jason. Phil is a lifer with something like 16 years under his belt working maintenance for the school while Jason is an ex-football player who dropped out of the game as well as school due to an injured knee, now he toils as Phil’s partner in maintenance, completely giving up on his dreams. Now what would a comedy about an underdog society of people be without throwing a little bit of conflict at our underdog heroes? “Housing and Maintenance” provides that conflict in the way of co-workers who, for some reason, really seem to hate Phil and Jason, as well as a supervisor that would like nothing more than to see the two fired. Then Jason not only has to deal with a bitchy girlfriend, but he also has to here it from Phil who insists that Jason try and salvage his aspirations of becoming a pro-football player. Oh yeah, and there’s a bitter campus employee who decides to plant a bomb in the school. Yep, there’s plenty of conflict, so that should make room for plenty of funny, right? Yes it should, but in this case I’m afraid the funny falls a little short.
I’ve said it before in some of my reviews here and I’ll say it again, to pull off a comedy, it’s extremely important that not only the director have a sharp sense of comic timing, but his or her actors should as well. That’s why making a comedy as your first feature film is a dangerous prospect. Most always, first time filmmakers are still kinda feeling their way through the filmmaking process, testing the waters and hoping to Christ that this thing is gonna turn out. Under that kind of pressure, I think it would be very difficult to make a funny picture, unless the filmmaker and his cast are naturally friggin’ hilarious – these things sometimes happen. It just unfortunately didn’t happen here. And that sucks because I see a great deal of effort behind this feature. The story and characters are there, but the humor, for the most part, comes off as clumsy and strained.
I’m gonna state the obvious by saying that what’s funny to you, may not be funny to others. We all know that, but if you’re trying to make a comedy, whether it be a film, live performance or whatever, you better hope that what’s funny to you is at least funny to somebody else. Not everyone is going to find John Waters’ films funny, but there’s a massive group of people that do. So in saying that, maybe there is an appreciative audience for “Housing and Maintenance” out there.