By Alex Florez
Rated: PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Release Date: 2008-08-22
Starring: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Official Website: http://www.thehousebunny.com/
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From the get-go ‘The House Bunny’ wants you to believe it’s a post-modern fairy tale comedy set on a college campus. Only when it nearly forgets what the moral to its story is, it almost becomes the ‘makeover’ episode from a daytime talk show. In fact, I’m inclined to say it turns the word ‘makeover’ into a genre.
Leading the way is Anna Faris (Scary Movie), who steps into Shelley Darlingson’s pumps as a stereotypical blond Playboy bunny who is kicked out of Hugh Hefner’s mansion. But soon enough she finds a new home at an awkward sorority where the girls are dull, unpopular and desperate for pledges in order to keep the dean from taking away their house. Predictably however, Shelley takes it upon herself to transform the girls into beauty queens and become the most coveted group to be around.
The ‘girls’, played by stars on the rise, Emma Stone (Superbad), Kat Dennings (Charlie Bartlett), Katharine McPhee (American Idol), Rumer Willis (Bruce and Demi’s eldest) and a few others, are so surprisingly likable during their pre-makeover stage that you’d almost wish they didn’t undergo any treatment. Emma Stone in particular, works the ‘bookworm’ role so charmingly well, she steals more than one scene clearly meant for Faris to carry, who can’t seem to hide how hard she tries for every laugh.
The pitfall here is that for too long a period, the film paints vanity in such a great light, that it sends mixed signals to the audience about the message the filmmakers want to convey. Is being beautiful on the outside really that important to get ahead in life? Well, for most of the film, they make you think so. Of course, that’s no message for a fairy tale to send – Shelley must learn that what boys really like is what’s on the inside. And so begins a mad and sloppy dash during the second half of the film to make things right.
One opportunity that the filmmakers certainly missed was to demystify the famous Playboy mansion. It does nothing to change or add to the widely held and fixed idea we all have of the estate. Instead we’re limited to some Hugh Hefner cameos and a thinly put together subplot involving Shelley’s banishment.
Nevertheless, this female driven comedy has its appeal as screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde) take parts from ‘The Revenge of the Nerds’ lore and attempt to make it their own.