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The House Bunny Strips Away Much That Is Funny

The House Bunny
Directed by Fred Wolf
Written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith
Sony, 2008

Anna Faris has been a favorite of mine for quite some time.  She made an impression on me through the Scary Movie franchise, but I think she officially won me completely over in Lost in Translation when she played the dim-bulb actress (many believe based on Cameron Diaz) for a couple of scenes.  And I loved her scene-stealing turn in Just Friends.  Faris has the looks to be your typical romantic comedy lead, but she often goes for the light-hearted dummy or naif.  She pulls off these characters perfectly.  It’s pretty safe to say…I’m in love with Anna Faris.

She does her best in The House Bunny as well, even though the movie is pretty scarce on real laughs.  In this she plays Shelley Darlingson, a bunny hopeful who lives with Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.  One day she gets a letter asking her to leave the premises, so she heads out in her busted up car and ends up near a bunch of sorority houses.  She naively asks to stay at the first sorority she sees, where we are introduced to our main villains Ashley (Sarah Wright) and the house mother Mrs. Hagstrom (Beverly D’Angelo).

After being told to leave, she gets the idea to be a house mother and finds a house full of losers who are about to lose their house because they don’t get any pledges.  This house is unofficially led by gawky Natalie (Emma Stone, a future Faris possibly) and rounded out with other nerdy, unattractive (of course, many attractive in real life), and/or socially inept girls played by Katharine McPhee (hot, but pregnant for some reason in this movie), Rumer Willis, Kat Dennings (another up and comer), Kiely Williams, and Dana Goodman.

Of course, with Shelley being a hot bunny, she has the number one asset that draws men to the house, and therefore many girls might want to join the house because of it.  So with Shelley’s help, the unattractive girls become attractive (it’s like a magic trick!), they throw crazy great parties, and look like they’re going to save the house.  But of course, the evil other sorority will do anything they can to stop it, since they are promised to get the house by the dean (Christopher McDonald) if the losers don’t get enough pledges.  Meanwhile, Shelley is falling in love with a smart guy, Oliver (Colin Hanks, looking and sounding more like his dad every day), and having a hard time figuring out how to act: completely dumb and vain, which usually works, or smart (which she isn’t).

The movie doesn’t get many laughs (it does have a few), but Faris is fun to watch, as is Stone, who plays gawky in an endearing manner.  Most of the problems have to do with the script from Lutz and Smith (Legally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, She’s the Man), filled with stuff that falls flat, or horrible comic timing, which I would pin on director Wolf (a Happy Madison product who earlier this year did Strange Wilderness).  That’s why having a lot of engaging people like Faris, Stone, and Kat Dennings keep it from completely sinking into terrible.  Having good actors rising above their written material can make something that could have been dreary into something, eh, not exactly worthwhile, but at least not unpleasant.

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