- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
appy Madison projects usually fall into one of two categories: movies starring Adam Sandler and movies starring buddies like Rob Schneider and David Spade. Recently, the company reached an all-time low with the release of “Strange Wilderness” – a comedy so incredibly bad that it deserves a category of its own. It’s curious, then, that the director responsible for that cinematic tumor is the same man behind “The House Bunny,” the first Happy Madison movie not starring Adam Sandler that doesn’t completely suck. It’s also the first Sandler-produced film targeted almost exclusively toward the ladies, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s actually funny. Most of that comedy comes courtesy of star Anna Faris, and it’s a good thing she’s around, because without her, “The House Bunny” would have been so bad that it might as well have starred Schneider in the lead role.
Faris stars as Shelley Darlingson, an orphan-turned-Playboy bunny who, on the day following her 27th birthday, is tricked into moving out of the mansion by a rival hoping to become the next Miss November. With nowhere to go, Shelley stumbles on to the local college campus where she discovers a world not unlike her own: Greek life. When the girls of the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority are given one final chance to sign a new pledge class or risk losing their house, Shelley swoops in to become their new house mother, transforming the seven girls from social outcasts into the hottest women on campus. When Shelley meets cute with a retirement home manager (Colin Hanks) only to discover her usual tricks don’t work on him, the Zetas (led by Emma Stone) jump into action to help Shelley become a more well-rounded person, all while making sure they don’t lose their own individuality to their newfound popularity.
Written by the same female duo behind “Legally Blonde,” “She’s the Man” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” “The House Bunny” isn’t exactly groundbreaking material, but it’s still enjoyable (if somewhat formulaic) thanks to its cast. Faris, in particular, saves the picture from becoming yet another second-tier Sandler production, and though she hasn’t received a whole lot of credit as an actress, Faris proves here why she’s one of the best female comediennes in the business. Faris can do slapstick as well as anyone in the genre, and her turn as the ditzy bombshell is one of her best roles to date. Not to be outshined by her co-star, however, is Emma Stone, who is quickly coming in to her own as a formidable comic actress as well. This marks the third time that Stone has taken an otherwise familiar role and made it more memorable with something as simple as comic timing, and though she isn't given as much screen time as Faris, she makes the most of every second.
Unfortunately, the movie is so damn superficial that its hard to endorse most of what’s going on. Though the Zeta girls are introduced as a bunch of misfits – one’s a goth (Kat Dennings), one’s pregnant (“American Idol’s” Katharine McPhee), one’s in a back brace (Rumer Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, in case you couldn't tell), and one's mute (Kiely Williams) – with the magic of makeup and fashion, they’re turned into beauty queens (well, most of them anyway) overnight. And even when they realize just how much they’ve compromised their individuality by becoming lifeless drones, one of the girls still asks, “can we stay 60% Shelley?” Sigh. It’s certainly not the fairy tale that the film’s storybook intro paints it as – it’s more “Revenge of the Nerds” than “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” – but what “The House Bunny” lacks in values it makes up for with laughs. This isn’t high-concept stuff here, folks, but it’s definitely better than what everyone expected.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The single-disc release of “The House Bunny” isn’t anything to get excited about, but apart from what’s already been included, it’s difficult to expect more. The deleted scenes are mostly garbage, but the 12-part making-of featurette covers everything from characters to costumes to cameos, and even a few things that don’t start with the letter “c.” And while the addition of a gag reel or audio commentary with Anna Faris would have been nice, their absence isn't a complete loss.