(2008)3Cammila CollarAwesome, raucous, and totally hilarious, The House Bunny breaks brave new ground by being completely typical. Allow me to explain. Hollywood is just about full to the brim with heavyweight comedians who mostly make their careers on vehicle movies written just for them to show up and work their schtick. Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Jack Black -- these funnymen have brought such a sense of commonality to comedy that they're collectively known as the Frat Pack. That name probably originated with the 2003 hit Old School, but there's a much more obvious fraternal element with this collective: they're all dudes.
You don't see many ladies showing up routinely to play for the big laughs -- sometimes fate shines and we get Amy Poehler in a funny supporting role, but most of the time all we get is some romcom veteran gal playing straight to the boys' wacky hijinks, and maybe providing an old-fashioned screwball romantic foil if we're really lucky. It's not often that a chick holds down the whole central premise of the movie with her mighty and irreproachable comedic chops in the same format as Ferrell in Anchorman or Black in School of Rock, but that's just what the always-hilarious Anna Faris does here. Her performance as Shelley, a despondent former Playboy Bunny-turned-geek-sorority house mother does the classic role of the cheeky dumb blonde one better -- or more like ten better. The woman just has killer timing, and an innate comedic talent that makes Reese Witherspoon's turn in Legally Blonde look like just another girly actress keeping safe within the confines of cuteness. Despite playing a toned and tanned pinup, Faris tackles the jokes with such balls-out fearlessness that she leaves no doubt she is not playing for the powder-puff league.
And Faris isn't the only good thing about House Bunny; up-and-comer Emma Stone does an impressive job of playing a prototypical nerd girl, especially after appearing so convincingly as the ultra-cool sarcasm queen in Superbad. Christopher McDonald and Beverly D'Angelo also provide a few glimpses of extremely entertaining silliness as university administrators. But the movie does have its limitations. This isn't a genius script, and when the rest of the cast of sorority sisters are required to carry a scene, they can be a little flat. The movie also tries to shoehorn in a weird and pointless girl-power message that includes a very awkward music video presented over the closing credits. And, of course, this being a movie about sorority girls instead of fraternity guys, the story belies all the unapologetic goofiness of its genre by making the plot all about the pursuit of getting flowers -- rather than the pursuit of getting laid. But with all that it already is, we can't ask The House Bunny to be everything. All it really has to be is funny, and it passes that test with flying colors.