Andy Bockelman: ‘House Bunny’ is sweet, but shallow comedy
September 5, 2008
With high heels, a tube top and an insipid look on her face, “The House Bunny” is coming to a theater near you.
Shelley Darlingson’s (Anna Faris) lifestyle is an absolute utopia – nine years of living in the Playboy Mansion, partying night and day and having her heart’s every whim at hand have completely removed her from any kind of unpleasantness. That makes it all the worse when, on her 27th birthday, she receives notification she must leave the estate forever.
Dumped into the real world, Shelley has no idea how to function. Luckily, she stumbles onto a location where everybody has the same problem as her: a college campus.
A chance encounter with Natalie (Emma Stone), the president of floundering sorority Zeta Alpha Zeta, affords her the opportunity to become a house mother. In her new maternal position, Shelley takes the misfit Zetas under her wing, boosting their popularity on the Greek circuit.
However, as their reputation goes up, hers nosedives when she tries to snag a young man (Colin Hanks) who finds her superficial personality to be a turn-off, prompting her proteges to help her develop her inner self.
With starring roles in the “Scary Movie” franchise, “The Hot Chick” and more under her belt, Faris owns the “moron with a heart of gold” routine. Although her latest lead-head character is almost terminally stupid – believing “vapid” to be a compliment and “brothel” to mean a soup kitchen – there is something unavoidably sweet about her desire to just make everyone happy.
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Stone is none too shabby as the most normal Zeta, leading a troupe of oddballs including a biter (Kat Dennings), a recluse (Kiely Williams), a girl in a back brace (Rumer Willis) and an expectant mother (Katharine McPhee) who is a little too comfortable showing off her pregnant body.
Turning to the adults, seasoned actress Beverly D’Angelo is squandered as the elitist house mother of a rival sorority, while Hanks barely makes an impression as Shelley’s crush, Oliver. Her attempts to wow him go over better, especially a disastrous recreation of Marilyn Monroe’s famous subway grate scene from “The Seven Year Itch,” which only results in scalding.
As the executive producer for the film, Faris’s extensive promotional efforts – including an interview in Playboy – make up for the shortcomings, for example, the fact that nobody at this anonymous college seems to attend class. Likewise, an unavoidably derivative story is offset by genuinely good-natured fun, especially with appearances by Hugh Hefner and the renowned Girls Next Door.
Although the overall message for girls initially appears to be “change who you are to impress a boy,” it is much more positive and self-affirming, despite some flawed logic in the conclusion.
Basically a combination of “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Legally Blonde” – and authored by the screenwriters of the latter – “The House Bunny” is a cute comedy geared toward an undemanding crowd.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is your tolerance for a character whose intelligence can be summed up by her most prominent bumper sticker, which reads “Mean People Are Mean!”
If this is no problem, enjoy.