Movie Review for The House Bunny (2008)

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Review #676 of 365
Movie Review of The House Bunny (2008) [PG-13] 97 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $9.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 22 August 2008 @ 7:40 pm
DVD Release Date: 23 December 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: nothing

Soundtrack: order the CD below

Directed by: Fred Wolf (Strange Wilderness)
Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz (She's the Man) • Kirsten Smith (She's the Man)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Anna Faris (My Super Ex-Girlfriend) • Colin Hanks (Untraceable) • Emma Stone (The Rocker) • Kat Dennings (Big Momma's House 2) • Hugh M. Hefner (Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV) • Christopher McDonald (Superhero Movie) • Beverly D'Angelo (Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay) • Leslie Del Rosario ("The Secret Life of the American Teenager") • Katharine McPhee ("American Idol") • Rumer Willis (Hostage) • Kiely Williams ("The Cheetah Girls") • Dana Goodman (You Don't Mess with the Zohan) • Kimberly Makkouk (debut) • Monet Mazur (Monster-in-Law) • Tyson Ritter (House, M.D.) • Sarah Wright (Made of Honor ) • Rachel Specter (Prom Night) • Owen Benjamin (Comedy Gumbo) • Tyler Spindel (You Don't Mess with the Zohan)
cameos: Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, Kendra Wilkinson

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Pitched as a comedy with a decidedly feminist leaning, Anna Faris's risky House Bunny hops onto the screen filled with parts that, unfortunately, may induce a lot more squirming than worthy genuine laughter. Ms Faris plays Shelley Darlingson, a Playboy Bunny who's never yet been selected to be the coveted centerfold model. The morning after her 27th birthday, Marvin (Owen Benjamin), the Playboy Mansion Jack Rabbit, delivers her breakfast in bed with a note from Hugh Hefner (Hugh Hefner) indicating that given her advanced age, it's time for her to retire and clear out of the mansion by noon with all of her belongings and no she cannot keep her pink Prius. Bewildered by this cold treatment, she departs in a cloud of sadness and regret. Even her Playboy Pooch won't give her the time of day. Wandering somewhat aimlessly, she happens onto a local college's sorority row and into a house mother meeting. She's intrigued by the sound of the job, but the veteran leader of the mother's council rejects her on first sight as being unfit. Miraculously, one kinder, gentler mother suggests she pay a visit to the Zeta house. Turns out, this house full of misfits is about to be reabsorbed by the college due to their low membership, and their last three house mothers have quit. Shelley's charm helps her win over the Zeta president Natalie (Emma Stone) who subsequently works to sell her to the other members. It then becomes Shelley's job to turn this band of social rejects into the hottest girls on campus and save their house.

… decidedly vapid.
In exchange, she'll get some lessons in unlocking her brain's potential so that the local Nursing Home manager, Oliver (Colin Hanks) might find her more interesting. With typical college hi-jinx seen since the time of National Lampoon's now classic Animal House to last year's misfit fraternity house film, Sydney White, The House Bunny brings decidedly little fresh to the mix with added insult to injury as it attempts to send out the message that a woman's beauty is exactly skin deep; and, yet, it is only when Shelley accessorizes the sorority sisters that they suddenly become popular and desired by the opposite gender. It is primarily for this reason that, while buried somewhere in Karen McCullah Lutz's and Kirsten Smith's script there was some semblance of a well meaning morality tale, the film ends up decidedly vapid. Certain comedic elements were fresh and funny, but the vast majority of the plot is recycled derivative drivel less bold and breathtaking that an average episode of ABC Family's hit "Greek".

While the plot has its weaknesses, the film nonetheless possesses a breakout cast that could be for its young cast of women what The Outsiders was for its now household name actors including Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and Patrick Swayze. Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Leslie Del Rosario, American Idol near miss Katherine McPhee, Demi Moore / Bruce Willis daughter Rumer Willer, Kiely Williams, and Dana Goodman were uniformly exquisite in their portrayals of these young women who each undergo an ugly duckling to swan transformation under the tutelage of Shelley Darlinson. Anna Faris, for all the flaws in the design of her character, certainly cannot be faulted for her performance either.

…a breakout cast that could be for its young cast of women what The Outsiders was for its now household name actors…
She's dynamic, funny, cute, and perfectly suited for the role, as unfortunate as the role may be. As is typical for writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who also co-wrote the far better Amanda Bynes vehicleShe's the Man, male character take the back seat both in character development and motivation. Hence they turn out typically stereotypical leaning toward the anti-intellectual—turn about is fair play it seems after decades of relegating female characters and actresses to the back seat. They attempt some redemption by introducing the smarter Oliver character for Colin Hanks, but he could have played this role in his sleep with his eyes propped open for all the depth and importance, ultimately, the character and role command in the overall scheme of the plot.

…a bit too been-there-done-that to attract and hold most of its intended audience.

Nonetheless, Fred Wolf's direction is smooth and steady, the cameos including Hugh Hefner as himself represent mere eye candy, and the net result is a barely better than typical upper teen comedy that's probably a bit too been-there-done-that to attract and hold most of its intended audience.

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Other Projects Featuring The House Bunny (2008)
Cast Members
Anna FarisColin HanksEmma Stone
Kat DenningsHugh M. HefnerChristopher McDonald
Beverly D'AngeloLeslie Del RosarioKatharine McPhee
Rumer WillisMonet MazurDana Goodman
Fred Wolf
Karen McCullah LutzKirsten Smith

Review-lite The House Bunny (2008) [max of 150 words]
Decidedly vapid, Fred Wolf's The House Bunny starring Anna Faris as a former Playboy Bunny turned house mother when Hugh kicks her out of the mansion due to her advanced age of 27, despite a breakout cast of young women rivaling the rising star vehicle potential that The Outsiders held for it male cast back in the 80s, fails to score on many levels. A mixed moral message that beauty in women is only skin deep fails when the glamorous new house mother turns her sorority of misfits into the glamour calendar girls of campus and then and only then do they start to attract the opposite gender. The cast is great, and the script has come high points, but mostly this derivative film is recycled from too many recent films and is less cutting edge than an average episode of ABC Family's hit "Greek".

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