Anna Faris as Shelley Darlington
Colin Hanks as Oliver
Emma Stone as Natalie
Kat Dennings as Mona
Julia Lea Wolov as Sweet prostitute
Hugh Hefner as himself
Chris McDonald as Dean Simmons
Beverly D’Angelo as Mrs. Hagstrom
Leslie Del Rosario as Sienna
Katherine McPhee as Harmony
Rumer Willis as Jo Anne
Kiely Williams as Lilly
Dana Goodman as Carrie Mae
Kimberly Makkouk as Tanya
Monel Mazur as Cassandra
Funny in spots, “The House Bunny” is nothing more than a mash-up of movies we’ve all seen before – one part “Legally Blonde” (pink and all), one part “Revenge of the Nerds” (this time with girls), a bit of the “Ugly Duckling” and a dash of Sandler-esque guffaw (it’s a Happy Madison production after all).
When an aging (gosh, 27!) Playboy bunny gets ousted from the mansion by a jealous rival, Shelley (Faris) finds herself on the streets. Stumbling into Sorority Row at a local college, she finds a house of female outcasts close to losing their charter if they do not get the minimum pledge count at the upcoming rush. Needing a place to live, Shelley offers to become their House Mother and help them become popular, which would make attracting the needed pledges that much easier. As both their outer and inner beauty start to blossom, the girls must contend with a rival sorority that plans on buying there house once they get the boot.
The cast of “The House Bunny” is pretty solid overall. I just wish they had something more original to work with here. The standouts include Emma Stone as Natalie, the pre-House Mother leader of the misfit Zetas. She has geek girl nailed all the way down to the excitable ramblings of B.Y.O.M. (Bring Your Own Mouse!) – one of her party ideas to gain new pledges. One of her first attempts to sex up her image – the ill-fated ‘wet pants’ lure was one of the biggest laughs in the film.
Beverly D’Angelo, who doesn’t get a lot of screen time, is one cold b*tch as the upper-crust House Mom to the prissy Phi Iota Mu’s – the ‘popular girls’ sorority aiming to take over the Zetas house once they lose their charter.
Colin Hanks, who looks more like his famous father by the hour, has a decent, if limited, turn as Oliver, the neighborhood nursing home coordinator and Shelley’s love interest.
There are laughs in “The House Bunny.” The Zetas encounter with nude Shelley is good for a chuckle. The bar scene where Shelley encourages the girls – pre-transformation – to hit up the fellas has a good laugh or two as well.
There is little if anything original going on in “The House Bunny.” That, along with its telegraphed message, is its ultimate downfall. We get “Legally Blonde” covered by Faris, who is a ditzier, sexier Elle Woods all the way down to her pink panties. “Revenge of the Nerds” is covered by the girls of the Zeta sorority, especially Stone’s Natalie who at one point – all dolled up – tries to invite the boy of her dreams over to watch “Battlestar Galactica.” A nod to “A League of Their Own” comes in the form of Dana Goodman’s Carrie Mae, who seems to channeling equal parts Marla Hooch (what a hitter!) and Gollum prior to her transformation. We have a little “Forrest Gump” moment courtesy of Rumer Willis and her back brace. And the list goes on…
Now, a lot of this is intentional, I get that… but that doesn’t make it right, or funny. Because we’ve seen all of these films, we can see what is coming in the “The House Bunny” from down the street, around the corner and up a side alley. Given that the writing team for “The House Bunny” (Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith) were also responsible for penning “Legally Blonde,” those similarities should not be surprising.
I generally like Anna Faris, but her penchant for playing the clueless airhead (see “Scary Movie” franchise and “Just Friends”) is really painting her as a one-trick pony. Sadly, the more I see it, the more I think it’s not a very good trick. She does provide some good laughs here, but her glazed over, mouth agape moments in this movie grew pretty annoying and hard to overlook once serious Shelley makes the big wrap up speech towards the end of the film. It was hard enough to take her seriously after the “The eyes are the nipples of the face.” line.
The subplot of the scheming bunny that boots Shelley from the mansion also is uninspired and generally weak overall. Who knew the double purple nurple could have such at controlling effect on the male waitstaff at the Playboy Mansion? You see… weak.
Hef and the Girls Next Door (Holly, Kendra and Bridget for the uninitiated) have several little cameos in the film that really go nowhere.
If you must go see “The House Bunny,” just don’t go in expecting too much. A decent cast is wasted on the retread of material that seems to lose more steam every time it’s recycled – like making a copy of a copy. In the end, it’s pretty harmless, but there are better comedies in theaters right now. The groans to giggles ratio in “The House Bunny” is too high and doesn’t merit the ticket price.