The House Bunny

  • 2008-10-09
  • By Sarah Mackie

BRAINY BLONDES: Shelley shows her talents as she transforms the Zeta Alpha Zeta sisters

Directed by Fred Wolf

TBT had one for the boys last week and this time, it's definitely one for the chicks. But that's not to say there's nothing in it for the guys. In fact, male companions will be more than happy to ogle for 98 minutes at the hotpants-wearing, Wonderbra-enhanced, firm-buttocked cast. Peppered with bikini scenes, car washes and next-to-naked yoga sessions, the story line could be a weak rehash of outdated movies, and he wouldn't even notice.

"The House Bunny" is no stroke of genius: a female empowerment movie cast with Playboy Bunnies, its predictable message has been covered more effectively by the likes of "Legally Blonde" and "Clueless." It's bubblegum comedy.
The adorably ditzy Shelley Darlingson (Anna Faris), the title Bunny, is an orphan ugly duckling turned into a swan who had been picked to live in the Playboy Mansion, where she is beloved for her sweetness and eagerness to please, in all ways you might imagine. Just on the brink of realizing her dream of becoming a centerfold, she is ruthlessly tossed out of the mansion for being "way old": 27, which is, like, 59 in Bunny years. The scheming vixen behind Shelley's eviction is another beauty vying for the title of Miss November who fakes a note from Hef (Hugh Hefner).

Suddenly homeless, what's a bunny to do? Devoid of survival skills outside of what "God and Dr. Birkman gave me," she overhears some girls talking about mango margaritas 's speaking her language 's  so she toddles, stiletto-heeled, after them, soon to enter the world of sororities and sisterhood.

Shelley, the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold character, becomes house mother to the members Zeta Alpha Zeta, who are about to lose their sorority house. To save it, Shelley sets about transforming the awkward and totally uncool members into hot babes, imparting her wise words, "Eyes are the nipples of the face." Transforming the sorority girls is a sizeable task; Shelley must convince the arch-feminist Mona (Kat Dennings); the sweet, socially inept Natalie (Emma Stone); the very pregnant Harmony (Katherine McPhee); and the back-brace-wearing Joanne (Rumer Willis) that makeup, men and partying are the keys to popularity, which in turn will let them keep their house. The girls need 30 pledges, or they lose it.

What saves the intellectual day is Shelley's romance with good guy Oliver (Colin Hanks). Administrator at a retirement home, Oliver may be the only guy who is unmoved by her Playboy origins and is interested in what's between her ears rather than beneath her chin. But alas, despite all of her successful mentoring of the Zeta girls, Shelley's desperate attempts at having a relationship with a normal guy fall flat, literally, paving the way for some of the funnier and more cringe-inducing scenes. Eventually, the Bunny herself learns that it's okay to add brains to her list of assets, and in true "Legally Blonde" style, the dumb blonde proves to be not so dumb after all.

The movie tries to steer away from bimbo propaganda with a clear moral: Be yourself, the motto that eventually wins the pledges to save the house and gives the story line a meaning as deep and sincere as Miss Universe's wish list.

No movie called "The House Bunny" would be complete without the appearance of Hef himself. A gentle mockery of the Playboy ethos, Hugh Hefner is portrayed as an old softie while the movie features many other familiar characters: the dumb blonde who is actually smart; the geeky but well-meaning sorority president; the primly pretty witch from the rival sorority; and the scheming vixen bent on Shelley's eviction from the Mansion.
Faris, best known for her work in the "Scary Movie" series, has a plausible comic fearlessness and endearing guilelessness in her latest work. The breathy Marilyn Monroe voice and the wide eyes of a baby make her the perfect bimbo. Her comedic timing is perfect and her pins, even better.

The Zeta girls themselves are played by a colorful assortment of young actresses, the best of whom is probably Emma Stone, also seen in "The Rocker." She steals nearly every one of her scenes, along with Dana Goodman as Carrie Mae, the quasi-lesbian. American Idol runner-up McPhee is desexualized by her bump (which is never actually explained); and for Willis 's yes, daughter of Bruce and Demi Moore 's this movie is her debut.

Showing in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.

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