Published: Monday, 25 August 2008 23:00
The House Bunny: Little Bunny Fool Fool
In The House Bunny, a raunchier take on the Legally Blond fairy tale, a wayward Playboy model stumbles onto higher education and teaches (and learns) a few lessons in style and substance on the way to happily ever after.
That was easy... Okay, let’s talk about something else.
The House Bunny really is that simple. Everything that is bound to happen happens—fast—and the film moves quickly and efficiently from A to B to C, with no new depths plumbed or angles explored.
The bunny in question is Shelley Darlingson (Anna Faris, so much better than this), a longtime resident of the fabled Playboy Mansion. Shelley is no sexpot, mind you; at Hugh Hefner’s never-ending sleepover she’s more eye candy than party favor. She’s sweet and obliviously optimistic, and having grown up an orphan she sees the mansion as a home and Hef, the bunnies and hangers-on as a surrogate family. But one bleary-eyed morning she receives a note telling her to vacate the premises. With a heavy heart (and what must have been a fairly light suitcase) she heads out into the fully-clothed world.
In no time, Shelley wanders onto a college campus and into a job as house mother to the girls of Zeta Alpha Zeta, the school’s lamest sorority. Zeta’s charmingly motor-mouthed chapter president, Natalie (Emma Stone, so much better than this), has the best interests of her socially inept sisterhood at heart. She sees Shelley as a kind of popularity tutor, someone who can turn their style around and help them reel in the boys. Can you say “makeover”?
With all deliberate speed the girls are hottified—which here means squeezed into baby doll clothes and doused with make-up and glitter—and they instantly draw the fawning attention of anonymous hordes of students. Shelley, meanwhile, turns her attention to a cute and kindly nursing home director named Oliver (Colin Hanks, so much better than this). She tries to ensnare him with her bunny tricks; when that fails, she resolves to impress him with some hastily conjured book-learnin’. (Prior to this there was nothing to suggest that the university offered classes.) Lessons are learned, bonds broken and reforged, and it all ends happily—with a rap and dance number. (Yep.)
In this movie, things progress exactly as you’d expect—no more and no less. The House Bunny might have made a decent comedy of sexual manners or knowing social commentary, but dozens of opportunities are set up and left behind. The Zeta girls are crudely drawn stereotypes of ‘uncoolness’ who nonetheless harbor no reservations about superficiality or the sport of boy-chasing—even the resident pierced-and-aggressive feminist folds like a card table after only a moment’s hesitation. No one really seems to be motivated by lust, either; characters dutifully go after whoever they’re supposed to.
Adult humor is the name of the game here. Profanity is used regularly and creatively. The f-word makes an appearance, as do plenty of b-words, uttered mostly by women to women. The sight gags are often crude: there’s one involving a metal-detector wand and a girl’s hidden piercings; another involves women punching each other in the breast. The nudity you ordered comes in the form of a shot of Shelley’s naked rear; otherwise, it’s midriffs and cleavage on parade throughout.
It may seem unsporting to criticize as dumb a film that wears its dumbness so openly. But what I walked away with was a sense that the filmmakers were just running down the clock. Taken as whatever you like—satire, fairy tale, escapist fun—The House Bunny isn’t even trying.
At an August 22 screening, the previews were: The Women (PG-13) starring Meg Ryan and other women; An American Carol (PG-13), a spoof picture from Airplane master-spoofer David Zucker; a teaser trailer for Marley and Me (not yet rated), based on the book; Nights in Rodanthe (PG-13), a romantic tear-jerker with Richard Gere and Diane Lane; and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (PG-13), seemingly a cross between Juno and any number of John Hughes films.
Published: Tuesday, 02 September 2008 03:05
Meet the Cretins
Disaster Movie gazes upward at the lowest common denominator
By Jared Peterson
In fairness, Disaster Movie is not a disaster—it achieves exactly what it was intended to. Namely, to methodically reference and ruthlessly skewer as many pop culture phenomena as possible in ninety minutes or less. Oh, and to be unremittingly gross.
Writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer started this parody franchise in 2000 with Scary Movie, a surprise hit that took to task the already self-deprecating Scream films. Since then we’ve had three Scary Sequels and three additional efforts structured loosely around one cinematic genre or another. Here, a weak apocalyptic premise provides the context for a cavalcade of crude jokes, random sketches and spontaneous musical numbers.
One morning, stuff starts falling out of the sky. A young man named Will (Matt Lanter) has had a mystical dream that may hold the key to stopping the chaos, and so he sets off to prevent the end of the world, while trying to save the life and win the affections of his estranged girlfriend (Vanessa Minnillo). Along for the ride is his flustered friend Calvin (Gary ‘G-Thang’ Johnson) and an assortment of familiar stock and mock characters, who join the quest for a few goofy scenes and then are dispatched by flying clichés.
The filmmakers’ crosshairs scan the whole media landscape, moving far beyond the big-budget event films referred to in the title. (The film might well have been called Recent Movie.) Equal-opportunity offenders, they take pot shots at family flicks like Enchanted and Alvin and the Chipmunks as well as Oscar darlings Juno and No Country for Old Men. Also downrange are TV shows like “My Super Sweet Sixteen” and “Hannah Montana”, and media-fishbowl celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Justin Timberlake.
Okay, credit where it’s due. Very rarely the film wanders haplessly into something like actual satire. The scene featuring Hannah Montana, for instance, goes on way too long, but it still manages to capture the absurdity and transparent avarice of the Montana/Cyrus merchandising machine. And the ramblings of a surly pregnant teenager, modeled on Ellen Page’s character in Juno, accurately lampoon the depleting charm of that film’s overwritten dialogue. A few genuinely clever quips and quirks appear to have been improvised by the actors, several of whom are current or former cast members of “MadTV”. One player in particular, Nicole Parker, has impeccable comic timing and a bright and versatile singing voice which she uses to send up several of the past year’s most annoying songstresses.
That said, to call Disaster Movie "sophomoric’"is an insult to even the rudest sophomores. Bathroom humor is a major theme, though hardly the most disgusting—no bodily function goes unexamined. Dozens of base sexual references are dispensed with locker-room exuberance, and several people appear naked save for strategically placed props. Many characters die stupidly violent deaths—the Juno character’s demise is lengthy and particularly disturbing, and played for laughs the whole time. With regard to adult language, it’s easier to say what you don’t get: the f-word. (It’s bleeped a couple of times, but never heard.) Besides that, every offensive word, gesture or inference comes into play multiple times.
So [in my best movie trailer voice] “This summer, if you see only one film with rabid, foul-mouthed, man-eating chipmunks…”
Well, it’s your dime.
At an August 30 screening, the following previews were shown: Punisher: War Zone, a violent actioner based on a violent comic book; Max Payne, a violent actioner based on a violent video game; The Haunting of Molly Hartley, a supernatural thriller; My Best Friend’s Girl, a dirty romantic comedy with Jason Biggs and Kate Hudson (this trailer had an a-word and some vomiting); and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a teen-ish romantic comedy.
Jared Peterson taught high school English and film in Fairfax County, Virginia, for several years. Currently he works as a freelance writer and dispenses free literary and film criticism to anyone who stands still long enough. Sample his work at proweirdo.blogspot.com.
Published: Monday, 08 September 2008 06:16
We scheduled Ballet Shoes, starring Emma Watson, to be our Movie Tuesday for this week. The fun part? It's not showing around here (since we don't get advanced screeners like "real" critics, we have to see the movies in the theaters like everyone else.) So...our bad. However, next week is a twofer: Jared Peterson reviews the animated Igor while Kristen Page-Kirby takes on the period bodice-ripper The Duchess, starring everyone's favorite pirate wench, Kiera Knightly. Sorry for the mix-up, and we'll make it up for you next week by being twice as nice.
Published: Tuesday, 08 April 2008 06:20
Want a good family film to spend quality time with your loved ones? Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin's newly released movie, Nim's Island, is packed full of adventure that’s sure to be loved by the whole family. With actors such as Abigail Breslin, Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, an adventure begins for a young girl named Nim and her father, who live on a remote and undiscovered island. The beginning scene depicts Nim's childhood past and the legacy of her mother's death which leaves Nim's father a single parent. As Nim and her father search for an island that her mother found right before her death, Nim's father attempts to raise his 11-year old daughter. Once Nim and her father discover the long-lost island, they begin to make it their home, even taking in pets such as a seal, lizard and pelican. Nim's Island portrays an alternate life, as she lives on an island, is home schooled, and has some very unusual pets. As one of Nim's hobbies, reading novels of Alex Rover, played by Jodie Foster, allows Nim to escape into the novel. Approximately 10 minutes into the film, Nim begins to read her newest novel,which was dropped off by the supply ship. As she begins to read she becomes sucked into the novel, reading about a man named Alex Rover who is taken prisoner and has to fight for his life, as men try to kill him using swords. Regardless of this slightly violent scene, the film focuses upon morals of courage and good character, taught to Nim by her father.