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HOUSE BUNNY, THE (director: Fred Wolf; screenwriters: Karen McCullah Lutz/Kirsten Smith; cinematographer: Shelly Johnson; editor: Debra Chiate; music: Waddy Wachtel; cast: Anna Faris (Shelley Darlingson), Colin Hanks (Oliver), Emma Stone (Natalie), Kat Dennings (Mona), Katharine McPhee (Harmony), Sarah Wright (Ashley), Christopher McDonald (Dean Simmons), Beverly D’Angelo (Mrs. Hagstrom), Hugh Hefner (Himself), Rachel Specter (Courtney), Owen Benjamin (Marvin), Monet Mazur (Cassandra), Rumer Willis (Joanne), Kiely Williams (Lilly), Katharine McPhee (Harmony); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Allen Covert/Jack Giarraputo/Heather Parry/Adam Sandler; Columbia; 2008)
“If dumb alone was funny this comedy would be a scream.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If dumb alone was funny this comedy would be a scream. If this timid sex exploitation film was a real homage to Playboy there would be nudity and the Playboy mansion sequences wouldn’t look as if it was being filmed for a Disney pic. If this was a good film there would have been a good script and not this unoriginal, unfunny and lazily written one turned in by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (writers of “Legally Blonde,” who shamelessly revisit that film). If Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”) knew how to direct a comedy, we must wonder why were not even the pratfalls funny.

This broad comedy (pun intended!) is a one-woman show starring Anna Faris, the star of the Scary Movie franchise and probably the most acclaimed comedienne today, who is called upon in a rare starring role and plays in earnest her sweet and happy-go-lucky but dumb and ditzy blonde act with no let up for the weary viewer to rest from all the airhead jokes. Though she may have some talent for this My Friend Irma shtick (unfortunately a talent that does little for me), her relentless act nevertheless became increasingly tiresome and I found her around the half-way point (when I was sure this film fell down a sink hole) to be more annoying than funny. This is a film that couldn’t be more awful even if tried to be awful. Even Hef can’t play himself with conviction. I thought the funniest line was on a bumper sticker that said “Mean people are really mean.”

The plot has the 27-year-old Playboy Bunny, Shelley Darlingson (Anna Faris), who aspires to be a November centerfold, “expelled” from living at the Playboy mansion because of a scheming rival after the orphan was living there since she was 18 and then landing a job as house mother to an L.A. loser sorority called Zeta House. It’s the least popular sorority on campus because all the girls are ugly and no one wants to party there, and if they don’t attract thirty new pledges for the new semester they will lose their charter and thereby their house. The Zeta girls consist of the nerdy brain Natalie (Emma Stone), who wears glasses and doesn’t have a stylish haircut; a gimpy Joanne (Rumer Willis) who wears a backbrace; a pregnant girl (Katharine McPhee); and one (Kiely Williams) who never talks and won’t even come out of her room.

The hot looking Shelley then helps the Zeta girls become popular and every girl has a makeover and learns about how a frat boy wants them to act, which naturally results in instant popularity. The story continues with meaningless subplots and trivial complications, like the now popular Zeta girls acting like their rival snooty sorority in rejecting applicants over looks and a ridiculous love story with the bubbly Shelley vamping nice guy nursing home volunteer Oliver (Colin Hanks) and finding out she really loves him and must change her tacky tactics to become more intellectual to nail the do-gooder.

The only life lesson learned here is that crap is still crap, even if it’s gift wrapped in such cheerful trappings.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”