On the surface The House Bunny is certainly nothing new or special. Take every “we must save this fraternity/sorority!” flick that comes to mind and know that this one doesn’t deviate one iota from the formula. The separator is Anna Faris, a one-person army of a comedienne who has finally been given her own vehicle. Her charisma and comic timing, coupled with the schizophrenic script by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, makes The House Bunny a recommendable comedy.
Shelley (Faris) just turned 27. She lives at the Playboy mansion and dreams of someday becoming a playmate (just to be clear, a bunny is a server of sorts and a playmate actually poses in the magazine). Before that dream can be realized, however, Shelley is tossed out of the mansion for being too old (27 is actually 59 in “bunny years,” we learn). Out on the streets, Shelley soon comes across the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority house on an unnamed campus. The sorority is made up of seven social rejects that are on the verge of losing their charter. What’s Shelley, the new house mother to do? Make them cool, of course!
Faris is handed the film on a golden platter and she makes the most of it. She’s a tremendous physical comedian and has the ability to make a scene with her facial expressions alone. The running gag is that whenever Shelley meets a new person, she repeats their name in a low, Darth Vader-like voice to help her remember it. In the hands of anyone else, this could have gotten old in the first scene. Faris makes it work throughout. This is even with a script that clearly falls into the “hit or miss” category. You have to wonder how much of this Faris improvised. Director Fred Wolf, whose Strange Wilderness found no audience whatsoever, has wisely expanded his target audience as men and women alike will have something to enjoy here.
The supporting cast colorful, to say the least. We have American Idol-er Katharine McPhee, Bruce Willis’ daughter, Rumer, Tom Hanks’ son, Colin, and curious cameos by the likes of footballers Matt Leinert and Sean Salisbury, ESPN dude Dan Patrick (as a cop!), and Shaquille O’Neal. Hugh Hefner and his Girls Next Door also have small parts, and Hef himself probably gives the reaction performance of the year when he’s on the phone with Shelley. Watch for it.
The House Bunny is stupid to be sure, but the likeability factor of Anna Faris is off the charts and her energy is contagious. She definitely has the chops to headline comedy projects in the future. The rest of the film is as by-the-numbers as you’d expect, but completely harmless. Women will like the fashions; guys will like the plethora of gorgeous women. That’s all we ask for out of a late summer comedy.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 97 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: August 22, 2008
Directed by: Fred Wolf
Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith.
Cast: Anna Faris, Katharine McPhee, Emma Stone, Rumer Willis, Kat Dennings, Monet Mazur