The House Bunny (2008) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity, and brief strong language
Running time: 108 min.
Cast: Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Katharine McPhee, Rumer Willis, Colin Hanks, Kiely Williams, Dana Goodman, Monet Mazur, Hugh Hefner, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D'Angelo
Cameo: Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, Kendra Wilkinson, Sean Salisbury, Matt Leinart, Nick Swardson, Shaquille O'Neal, Ben Lyons, Allen Covert
Director: Fred Wolf
Screenplay: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Review published October 18, 2009
Turn-ons: Seeing plenty of Playboy Playmates cavort around in bikinis.
Turn-offs: Everything else.
Anna Faris (Mama's Boy, My Super Ex-Girlfriend) stars as Shelley Darlingson, working at the Playboy Mansion with hopes of one day becoming a true featured Playmate in the adult magazine. Shortly after her 27th birthday, she's given the boot from the place she calls home for getting to be too old, and without any real marketable skills or knowledge of the real world outside of the men's Shangri-la. Upon sight of a nearby sorority house, Shelley mistakes it for a smaller version of the Mansion, but only finds uppity, privileged girls and house mothers who turn her away.
She ends up as the house mother for the geekiest, homeliest sorority at the school, Zeta Alpha Zeta, who are on the verge of losing their house if they can't get any new pledges. Luckily, the one thing Shelley knows is how to sell herself, and whips these plain Janes into knockouts that has the men giving them a second look. But the rival sorority that turned Shelley away isn't going to take having their status as the most popular and prestigious sorority taken away without a fight.
This low-aiming comedy has plenty of eye candy and the perception of energy, not terribly different than any other Happy Madison production. It's not as crude as an Adam Sandler flick, but it aims at just as juvenile an audience. However, even on its own terms, The House Bunny doesn't generate enough laughs to be anything more than sporadically entertaining, and the time-worn plot of a hipster teaching a socially inept group of misfits how to be popular lends little surprises, and hence little interest outside of seeing some attractive girls baring as much skin as allowed in a PG-13 flick.
The House Bunny succeeds or fails on the appeal of Anna Faris, and along those lines, it's a less-than-adequate showcase of her comedic talent, though she's to be commended for the exceptional Playmate-worthy shape she got herself in for the role. She has primarily been utilized to great success as a ditsy but charming supporting character in most other films, but she doesn't get enough good material to work with here, and though she is goofy and quite attractive enough to arrest the attention, she isn't able to generate the laughs necessary without quality writing.
Some might automatically see The House Bunny as a mix of Legally Blonde and Revenge of the Nerds. Thematically, it is true that there's little new ground covered if you've seen those two films. However, The House Bunny, despite having the same screenwriting team of Blonde, doesn't generate the same laughs or charm. It also misses the ultimate message of Nerds, which is that nerds can define their own notions of coolness without mass approval. The message of The House Bunny is that to achieve love and popularity, girls must give up their individual identities in order to go for the cookie-cutter glamour of a cheesecake pin-up model. In other words, men don't want you for who you are inside and women won't respect you if you aren't popular with men. This seems like a very sad commentary to make to whatever potential young girls will surely be in the audience of this powder puff comedy.
Like real Playboy Playmates, The House Bunny is mostly hot bodies, lots of gloss, and minimal depth -- and leaves you wishing you could see just a little bit more than those working behind the camera will allow.
©2009 Vince Leo