I’m going to begin with a confession. This is not the sort of movie that finds its way onto my Netflix queue. However, when I find myself at my parents’ house for the holidays, I tend to be more at the mercy of what’s on their big-screen TV. The House Bunny ended up being on during Christmas Eve, and rather than treat it the way I do most modern American comedies – with cynicism and contempt – I thought I’d give it a fair shake. Seemed only fair, since on more than one occasion the ladies were shaking things themselves. The film stars Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D’Angelo, Katherine McPhee and Hugh Hefner.
Shelly Darlingson (Faris) is a Playboy bunny. She’s not centerfold-worthy despite being sexy, vivacious and in her twenties. At twenty-seven, however, she’s told she’s too old to be a bunny and gets kicked out of the Playboy Mansion. Downtrodden, she comes across attractive women living together in a sorority, but they kick her out because she’s not a student. Shelly washes up at a sorority of misfit girls, and having learned that older women become house mothers for sorority girls like these, takes it upon herself to transform the house to a mansion all its own, and the girls within to beautiful heart-stoppers that become the talk of the campus.
Despite the somewhat generic university misfits becoming awesome plot, this movie works as a fun little comedy most of the time. If it weren’t for Anna Faris’ honest and well-paced delivery of her lines and the way the others play off of her performance, this concept would utterly fail. The buoyancy she brings to the writing and direction has less to do with her ‘assets’ and more with her experience and sincerity. As honest as Faris and her co-stars are with themselves, they’re also smart enough not to take themselves too seriously. While some of the jokes and gags fall flat, which is an inevitability when you’re dealing with ground that’s been tread before in comedy, the ones that work do so well enough to keep us interested long enough to expect the next one – or is it the T&A? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Again, this isn’t the sort of thing I’d normally watch. Sure, sex is funny. To paraphrase Alan Rickman as the Metatron in Dogma, consider some of the faces people make in the midst of coitus. And mixing the inherent comedy of women that get by on their looks alone with the tried & true formula that worked for Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds and PCU sounds like another one of those chocolate/peanut butter combinations. I honestly believe that Anna Faris, the best and most consistent thing about the Scary Movie series, is the reason this movie works as well as it does. It has good things to say about female empowerment not unlike Miss Congeniality and Legally Blonde – the latter film being borrowed from heavily when Shelly needs to, like, learn stuff. In fact this movie is more a casserole than a Reese’s treat – so many things left over from other movies are mixed together to make this one. But it’s a dessert casserole, sweet and decadent and offering a bit of substance, like a cake that’s more frosting than cake but has just enough cake to still be called a cake. If that makes any sense.
I have another confession. I was secretly hoping this movie would be horrible. I was hoping I’d be able to tear it apart the way a lion tears apart a wildebeest. But there’s just enough in The House Bunny to save it from having its dessicated carcass join the likes of In The Name of the King in the back of my little Internet den. It’s not earth-shattering or breaking any new ground or pushing any envelopes, but it’s not utter dross or completely brainless or heartless either. It takes turns being funny, cute and sexy, and while it never completely hits the mark on any of those turns, it’s not a total miss. There isn’t any real danger to our girls of anything horrible happening, and Shelly changes her mind quite a few times in the film’s third act. In the end, though, while it didn’t make me think at all, it made me laugh at times and that’s the goal of a comedy. You’re really not missing anything if you don’t add The House Bunny to your Netflix queue, but if you like your collegiate comedy wearing a bikini and pink bunny ears, you could do worse. And there’s nothing wrong with seeing Anna Faris in that outfit.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.
December 26, 2009 at 6:43 pm
a fair review – and glad you withheld blindly throttling in. i found myself under similar inclinations… but, like you, am political enough to abstain for said throttling until i have the proper ammunition. anna faris is great (not sure if you saw observe and report but she was a bit underused in that film… sad, i felt)… surprised you didn’t mention fred wolf (dir.) who’s been around comedy forever and ‘bunny’ certainly echos his past experience in the genre. why hate on american comedy, we got the hangover from the good ol us of a, no?
great review – keep ’em coming.