It's a testament to the underrated Anna Faris that her considerable comedic skills can rescue a film as thoroughly dopey as 'The House Bunny.' Part 'Legally Blonde,' part 'Revenge of the Nerds,' part 'Sorority Boys,' it's a patch-work of borrowed concepts and half-baked ideas that offers literally nothing we haven't seen before. But the film is so eager to please, and Faris is so game to make a complete fool of herself to get a laugh, that it's virtually impossible not to want to hug 'The House Bunny.' This film would be absolutely nothing without Faris -- and that's a compliment.
Faris stars as Shelley Darlingson, a 27-year-old Playboy bunny living a life of privilege at the Mansion. One of Hugh Hefner's inner-circle, she spends her days shopping, serving drinks at parties and, she thinks, landing her first-ever Miss November centerfold spread. That is, until a rival gets her ejected from the mansion ("27 is 59 in bunny years," she's told), leaving Shelley bewildered with nowhere to go. Eventually she winds up walking the streets of a local college campus, and stumbles into an open house at a sorority. There she hits upon a new career path -- she'll become a "den mother" to the Zeta house, and in the process transform the campus' biggest band of misfits into the school's most popular sorority.
As 'House Bunny' begins, it appears to be headed in a direction rather fresh for a dumb high-concept Hollywood comedy. Faris' natural wit and impeccable sense of timing (which she honed in the otherwise dreadful 'Scary Movie' series) is a sublime contrast to the bubble-headed denizens of the Playboy mansion. She even manages to upstage Hef himself, who appears in a cameo looking mummified. The idea of Faris putting a modern, skewered spin on the culture of the "Girls Next Door" is promising, but unfortunately the movie quickly abandons this story, and settles into a far more pedestrian and benign feel-good teen college comedy.
By the time Shelley arrives at the sorority and sets about reinventing the Zeta house as a band of mean girls, we immediately sense where the story is headed. Faris is able to elevate 'The House Bunny' above a cheap 'Legally Blonde' rip-off thanks to her irrepressible spirit, but it's hard not to feel a bit cheated by the sense of deja vu the story saddles her with. All the plot "twists" are easy to spot a mile away. We can easily predict that Shelley will teach each of the girls lessons in self-esteem and beauty, only to see her creations eventually succumb to the same narcissism and peer pressure they initially rallied against. Thus 'The House Bunny' quickly turns into a series of make-over montages, with each of the girls getting their own little arcs that, if all rather cute, don't add up to much of substance.
Worse is the shoe-horned in romance with nice guy Oliver (Colin Hanks). One wonders what sort of female empowerment message screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith were aiming for, as Shelley (however airheaded she may be) goes from single-minded career gal to desperately trying to validate herself via a man in a matter of seconds. Granted, the scenes between Shelley and Oliver can be charming, but Faris and Hanks have little to no chemistry together and the moral message is queasy. (And a note to geeks everywhere -- if Hanks can land a hottie like Faris, there's hope for you yet.) Even a last-minute, 'Revenge of the Nerds' like campus battle against a fellow, popular sorority to save the Zeta house can't save 'The House Bunny's plot from proving hopelessly derivative.
Yet, despite such a weak story, 'The House Bunny' made me laugh all the way through. And that's thanks to Faris. She's simply hilarious in just about every scene, and never misses a beat. Her way of spinning silly lines, her Yoda-channeled-through-Pamela-Anderson-speak, and the obvious intelligence with which she plays a dimwit, elevates the cinematic dumb blonde to the level of art form. I'll give credit to Faris, who is also co-producer on 'the House Bunny,' for taking charge of her career and finding her own vehicles in male-driven Hollywood. Let's just hope that the solid (if unspectacular) box office success of 'The House Bunny' finally allows her to land the bigger and better roles she seeks. She deserves it.
'The House Bunny' gets a nice 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer (2.35:1). It's as bright, colorful and bouncy as a house bunny deserves.
The film's day-glow visual intentions are immediately clear. The color palette is vivid and saturated, with lots of girly pinks, oranges, and greens. Fleshtones are, surprisingly, accurate. The super-clean source has nice blacks and pleasant contrast, which result in a fine level of visible detail and a fair amount of depth. The transfer is sharp as a tack, too, and the encode clean. If I have any complaints, its that blacks could be a little stronger and contrast less flat, which keeps the image from truly popping like the best high-def I've seen. But 'The House Bunny' remains a sparkly transfer that is sure to please.
Sony presents 'The House Bunny' in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit). It's an undemanding film sonically, but sounds just swell on Blu.
'The House Bunny' is never a particularly active mix, with limited surrounds that only pop up on occasion for rather silly comic moments. Atmosphere is meager, as is score bleed (even the pop-rock songs on the soundtrack sound front-heavy). The track is clean and polished, however, with clear and well-balanced dialogue. Low bass has little to do but supports the action well. Don't look for any source issues, either, as this is as slick a mix as you'd expect for a studio release. 'The House Bunny' sounds just fine.
Sony has put together a straightforward if entertaining batch of supplements for 'The House Bunny.' Most of the video materials are in 1080i/AVC MPEG-4, with the same subtitle options as the main feature.
'The House Bunny' is a calorie-free cinematic confection. It's air-headed, of questionable value and as wafer-thin a story as is possible. But it's also pretty funny, and Anna Faris can do no wrong in my book. This Blu-ray is sweet, too, with good video and audio and some enjoyable supplements. 'The House Bunny' isn't a good enough movie to warrant an absolute purchase, but it's certainly worthy of at least a rental.