Review: Perky Faris makes 'House Bunny' funny
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Just in time for back-to-school comes "The House Bunny," which won't teach you anything new or useful, but it will prepare you for sorority rush.
Well, its depiction of Greek life isn't all that accurate either, but that's beside the point. The entire purpose of this late-summer comedy is to serve as a showcase for Anna Faris, star of the "Scary Movie" franchise, whose sunny disposition and solid comic timing make "The House Bunny" a whole lot more enjoyable than it ought to be.
Yes, you've seen it all before. It's essentially a female remake of "Revenge of the Nerds," with a script from "Legally Blonde" writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, so it contains the same type of facetious humor as that 2001 hit. Faris, in all her ditsy glory, functions as a descendant from a long line of supposedly dumb blondes (which includes Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods and extends back to Judy Holliday's Billie Dawn and beyond), but she's so unafraid of going for the big, goofy laugh at her own expense that she makes this familiar role her own.
Faris stars as Shelley, a perky Playboy bunny who gets kicked out of Hef's mansion and becomes the house mother for Zeta Alpha Zeta, a sorority full of misfits. Actually "full" is stretching it, since the Zetas only have seven members, and they need to come up with 30 pledges to avoid being kicked off campus and having the mean-girl Phi Iota Mus take over their house.
And so Shelley, with her itty-bitty outfits, pouf of platinum hair and an endless stream of malapropisms, transforms these wallflowers into Pussycat Dolls, and turns the Zeta house into the place to be. Naturally, a car wash fundraiser attracts the boys — with Shelley, in a bikini, high heels and pigtails, holding a hose and proclaiming, "We're just washin' cars and bein' sexy!" But soon enough, the girls on campus start showing interest in becoming a Zeta.
Silly? Impossible? Of course. This is a Happy Madison film, after all — though it is refreshing to see Adam Sandler's production company come up with a female-centric comedy for once. (Fred Wolf, who wrote for Sandler at "Saturday Night Live," directs in straightforward, unremarkable fashion.)
Emma Stone ("Superbad, "The Rocker") continues to establish an engaging presence as the sorority's brainy leader — the Anthony Edwards figure, if you will. Kat Dennings gets some good lines as the resident feminist, who's initially appalled by Shelley's suggestions but eventually gives in when she realizes she likes her newfound attention.
But the importance of being hot and popular can't be the moral here — certainly not in Hollywood — and so Shelley must undergo a makeover of her own, for her brain. The ever-likable Colin Hanks (as in son-of-Tom, and he looks eerily more like his dad with each film he makes) co-stars as the first nice guy ever to show an interest in Shelley, which discombobulates her even further.
Rumer Willis (as in daughter-of-Bruce-and-Demi) and "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee don't get much to do as a couple of fellow Zeta sisters. They're both literally constricted — Willis' character wears a metal body brace, while McPhee's has an unexpected pregnancy. Not much comedy gold there.
But there's more on the celebrity cameo front. Matt Leinart and Shaquille O'Neal appear as themselves, partying at the Playboy mansion, with Hugh Hefner and the "Girls Next Door" — Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson — making a few appearances, as well. You know, just to ground the movie in reality.
"The House Bunny," a Columbia Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language. Running time: 98 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.