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The House Bunny (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/19/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/19/2008

I fully realize that what I'm about to say is going to sound sexist to many, and I apologize in advance. On the whole, I find men to be funnier than women. When I list my favorite comedians, there are a few females, such as Ellen Degeneres or Whoopi Goldberg, but for the most part, men dominate the results. I think that women are often socialized to be quite and demure, and thus don't go for the big laughs in the same way that guys do. This is especially true for actresses, as there are only a handful of my favorite movie movements where a woman is getting the laughs. The exception to this rule is Anna Farris. Rarely does an attractive young woman just throw herself into roles in the way that she does. She is clearly very brave or has absolutely no shame. After several films where she was part of an ensemble, Faris lands a starring role in The House Bunny.

Faris stars in The House Bunny as Shelly, an orphan who blossoms and finds her way to the Playboy mansion. She lives there in the lap of luxury hoping to one day be a centerfold. But, the day after her 27th birthday, she gets a note from Hugh Hefner (playing himself) telling her to move out. Knowing no other life, Shelly wanders the streets until she comes upon a row of sorority houses. Intrigued, she investigates and learns that the houses have house mothers. She visits the ZETA house and finds a group of depressed losers led by Natalie (Emma Stone). She learns that the ZETAs are going to lose their house because they can't get any pledges. Shelly decides to save the sorority by teaching the girls how to be attractive, popular young women. But, can a facelift to both the girls and the house really turn things around?

Forget about the fact that my opening statement may be sexist, wait until you see this movie! One probably shouldn't look to PG-13 comedies for guidance, but The House Bunny sends a terrible message to its audience. For the bulk of the film, only one idea is clear: only attractive girls can be popular. This theory is hammered home in scene after scene. The film tries to backtrack at the end, but the damage has been done. Despite the fact that the ZETA girls are smart and probably need therapy more than anything else, once Shelly has them in tight clothes and high heels, they are magically the hottest thing on campus. Try talking your way out of that one to an adolescent girl.

Now that we have that out in the open, let's talk about the movie itself. The House Bunny is a combination of some fine comedic acting and a weak story. Faris credits herself with the original story (in the bonus features) and the screenplay was written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kristen Smith, who also wrote Legally Blonde and 10 Things I Hate About You (good) and She's the Man (not so good). Here, they've taken Faris' idea and simply placed it into the Legally Blonde formula -- an attractive woman finds that she can use her non-traditional skills to make it in an unfamiliar system. The problem with The House Bunny's script is that it takes no chances and holds no surprises. The film comes from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison company, which has been known to churn out some weird movies, but other than the fact that Shelly's cat has a cane (?!), things remain pretty normal here.

Fortunately for us, the cast is able to rise above the material. Faris proves herself to be the best contemporary actress at playing dumb. With her big eyes and her ability to create a completely blank face, one would almost believe that she would be this ignorant if we were to meet her in real life. But, it takes intelligence to be this naive and she plays it to the hilt. However, we get the sense that Shelly isn't stupid, she simply doesn't understand the world outside of the Playboy mansion. When in her element, she has good ideas. Faris is able to convincingly play both the confident and bubbly Shelly and the down and out one as well. The ZETA girls offer a nice cross-section of characters with Dana Goodman stealing the show as Carrie Mae. Emma Stone isn't bad, but it's clear that she spent too much time around Jonah Hill while making Superbad. Colin Hanks is solid, if not a bit unbelievable, as a guy whom Shelly likes. Vets Beverly D'Angelo and Christopher McDonald offer nice cameos.

If you can ignore the questionable theme of the movie, The House Bunny is harmless fun. For a modern PG-13 rated movie, it never gets too raunchy (despite the fact that the Playboy mansion is involved) and most of the jokes fall into the physical comedy or stupid line category. Most of the laughs come from Faris, who shows that she's not afraid to throw herself over a table or completely miss understand the saying, "A little bird told me". You may not want this bunny to move into your house permanently, but it's worth your while to let her visit.

The House Bunny teeters on high heels onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The most stunning thing about this transfer is how great the colors look. The pastels and bright hues leap off of the screen and are never dull. The image is well-balanced, in that it's never too dark or too bright. The level of detail is very good and the picture is never soft of blurry. The depth is pretty good, but not as good as some action films. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite having a surprisingly low bitrate for a Sony title, the audio here is good. The stereo effects are nicely detailed and show impressive stereo separation. The in-film music sounds great and often produces a nice amount of bass. Surround sound is often limited to music and crowd noise, but it is effective in the Aztec scene.

The House Bunny Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. The Disc offers ten DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. None of these scenes were integral to the film, but there are some funny moments here, and many will recognize the "get a yob" scene from the trailer. We get 12 (!?) "Featurettes" which run 53 minutes and fortunately can be watched all at once. The featurettes cover many different topics; We get an overview of Anna Faris and how she was involved in bringing the project to the screen; Each of the actresses playing teh Zeta sisters is allowed to introduce themselves; The Girls Next Door and Hefner are profiled...and that means that they get to talk more...; Colin Hanks is profiled and talks about what it was like to work with Faris; Katharine McPhee's involvement in the film is examined; We learn how The All-American Rejects front-man Tyson Ritter got into the film; We get a behind-the-scenes look at the cameos by Matt Leinart, Sean Salisbury, Shaq, Nick Swardson, Dan Patrick, and Allen Covert; Costume designer Mona May discusses the wild clothes in the film; We see the transformation from "geek to chic" for the Zeta girls; The creation of the "Aztec Party" is examined, including the costumes and the set; We get to see the photo sessions which went into the creation of the calendar; The final piece has the cast discussing their favorite scenes. The finale extra is the MUSIC VIDEO for "I Know What Boys Like" by Katharine McPhee.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long