Starring: Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Julia Lea Wolov, Hugh Hefner. Rated PG-13.
It would be easy, even tempting, to dismiss The House
Bunny as a formulaic retread, if not for
the irrepressible Anna Faris, whose turn as a former Playboy model unleashed on
a misfit sorority is nothing less than a revelation. Without her, the latest
from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company might have seemed every
bit as pedestrian as lame-brained misfires like Strange Wilderness
The Benchwarmers. Instead, Faris, a fearless physical comedienne who
deserves a movie worthy of her talents, elevates the material with her
The House Bunny was
written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, the duo responsible for Legally
Blonde, and the similarities are striking.
Shelley (Faris) is a 27-year-old beauty who takes to the streets of Beverly
Hills after her unceremonious eviction from the Playboy mansion. Following an
uncomfortable run-in with the police that establishes her as someone possibly
too naïve (or sexually demented) to survive outside the surreal confines of
Hugh Hefner’s palace, she arrives on sorority row looking for a new support
system, preferably one with mixed drinks.
Shelley lands on her feet, more or less, as the housemother
to the Zeta Alpha Zeta sisterhood, a homely group of outcasts (including Rumer
Willis and Superbad’s Emma Stone) on the
verge of losing their charter and their home. Armed with a fistful of
Wonderbras and mascara-heavy makeover kits, Shelley transforms her
babes-in-waiting into a full-blown pinups, much to the chagrin of a rival
sorority whose Revenge of the Nerds-style
pranks set up an inevitable showdown.
From there, The House Bunny lovingly invokes all the usual college-comedy clichés en route to a
feel-good finale that’s no more far-fetched than anything else the movie has to
offer. The Zetas, once proud feminists turned superficial brats, learn to
balance Shelley’s Cosmo-inspired teachings with some true-to-themselves
individualism. And Shelley gets a brain (and a boy, played by Colin Hanks) to
complement her big heart.
The House Bunny is
agonizingly unfunny in the early going, but once it hits its stride, Faris
energetically wrings laughs from a so-so script tailor-made for her brand of
bubbly humor. Whether she’s channeling her inner Marilyn, as she does in a sly
parody of The Seven-Year
Itch’s signature scene, or dutifully
hurling herself into a series of acrobatic pratfalls, Faris proves an engaging
presence. Her ability to turn an otherwise mediocre exercise into a charming
farce may not earn her any awards, but it gives us something to look forward to
– namely, her next movie.