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The House Bunny Pulls It Off

Jim McGuire | Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anna Faris is one of today’s best comic actresses, with her wide-eyed charm and dead-on delivery. The trailer for “The House Bunny” (“I think I dropped some money over here by this manhole”) easily made people want to rush out and see it as soon as possible. Admittedly, without Faris, “The House Bunny” might have become more bogged down than it already is by clichéd jokes about dumb blondes and how wild and crazy those darn college kids are.

At the beginning of the film, Shelley Darlington (Faris) is introduced, a pretty and bubbly (albeit slightly odd) aspiring centerfold who lives with Hugh Hefner, “Girls Next Door” style, at the Playboy Mansion. Life is great for Shelley until one day she is unceremoniously tossed from the mansion for being too old (27 is 59 in bunny years),and is forced to fend for herself. Alone with nothing but her bust and blonde hair to help her, Shelley stumbles onto a college campus (USC in disguise) and meets the misfits of the ZETA sorority house.

Led by the nerdy but energetic Natalie, (the very funny Emma Stone from “Superbad”), the ZETA girls (a rag-tag group of Goths, tomboys, hermits and a pregnant co-ed) are looking for a new house mother to help them attract pledges and save their house from being sold. Shelley takes the job, and hilarity and a serious makeover ensue.

The plot is contrived, but one knows that going in. Shelley tries to teach the girls how to flirt and be sexy with sporadic results, but it is only after the ZETA girls get total hair and wardrobe makeovers (i.e. they all dress like Shelley in skimpy pink outfits with too much make-up) that they are able to come out of their shells and start being popular with the rest of campus.

The movie actually gets a little boring for a stretch of about 15 minutes in the middle, as pretty people just don’t have problems, but things come crashing down when the ZETAs realize they have become elitist fakes like the girls in the other sororities and blame Shelley. Everything works out in the end when the girls realize how much Shelley means to them and get her back on campus just in time to save the ZETA house with a rousing (if not odd) speech about loving yourself.

“The House Bunny” as a whole is uneven. Things like the competition with the other sorority and Shelley’s courtship of the bookish Oliver (Colin Hanks) weren’t as funny or fleshed out as they were probably intended to be. None of those things really ruined the enjoyment of the film because one always knows that the next scene will feature Anna Faris getting into some sort of shenanigans.

What really gets one laughing is the quote-worthy oddities that kept coming out of Faris’s mouth, from ignorance of social mores (“I think I’ll have the mahi-mahi, but can I get it with just one mahi?”) to sheer absurdities (“I like that word. Manhole.”) It’s easy to find Faris’s wacky, wide-eyed comedy style to be endearing, and it is fun to watch her start on a tangent, not knowing where she will go. Faris’s Shelley, despite being perky and gorgeous, is really a lovable loser, craving acceptance and love just like all the ZETAs. Without Faris, though, one shudders to think about what kind of unfunny mess “The House Bunny” might have turned into.

The movie may have you very well giggling like a schoolgirl. However, the plot was not compelling enough to keep one in ones seat by itself, and the burden of carrying an entire movie (especially a comedy) on your shoulders is more than a comedienne just acquiring her leading lady status should have to deal with.