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HomeBlogPopcorn Parent Movie ReviewsMovie Tuesday: The House Bunny (PG-13)

Movie Tuesday: The House Bunny (PG-13)

The House Bunny: Little Bunny Fool Fool

Jared Peterson

 

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.

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