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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The House Bunny (review)

Sex Bomb

You’ve heard the term sex bomb. Now hear this: The House Bunny is a nuclear sex bomb, a radioactive weapon deadly to all forms of life except cockroaches and — maybe — morons as catastrophically stupid as the Playboy bunny Anna Faris “portrays” here.
Oh, it’s supposed to be adorable, how stupid Faris’s (Scary Movie 4) Shelley is, which is quite stupid indeed (she’s stunned to discover that a letter written to her contains more beyond the “Dear Shelley”). But she’s “sexy,” too, in exactly the kind of way a Playboy bunny is allegedly “sexy”: Barbie-doll bimbo and proud of it… and 75 percent naked all the time. She’s naive in a way that’s meant to be charming, but it’s a disturbing kind of innocence, seeing as how she has lived in the dubious shelter of the Playboy Mansion for years: when a cop stops her for suspected drunk driving and tells her she’s gonna have to “blow into this,” well, she takes it the way any girl would who believes, apparently, that a woman’s proper place is on her knees in front of a man.

So cute! Not! Now, Shelley’s been kicked out of Hef’s house for being too old, at 27. (That plot predicament, however, later takes a turn that may be the lowlight in a script full of jaw-dropping awkwardness and other awfulness that no purportedly professional weavers of fictional stories should have tried to get away with. Then again, perhaps the only decent script screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith had in them was Legally Blonde, the trough of which they return to here; they also wrote Ella Enchanted, which is one of the worst movies ever made. Not counting this one.) So Shelley stumbles her way into a “job” as the “house mother” at a sorority house at the nearby unnamed college: the Zeta Whatevers are a collection of hideous stereotypes of uncool femininity… which is to say that they represent the normal range of womanhood that falls outside the tiny Barbie-bimbo minority. They’re “losers” and “misfits” because they’re tall, short, skinny, plump, quiet, rowdy… oh, and smart. Which is, as any self-respecting woman knows, is the death kiss for femininity.

Now, The House Bunny appears to think it’s being “complicated” and “deep” when it has Shelley remind brainy Zeta Natalie (Emma Stone, also appearing currently in The Rocker) that “boys don’t like girls who are too smart.” See, we’re supposed to see that Shelley is wrong, and Shelley is supposed to be discovering that she is wrong, and all through the screamingly obvious plot “twist” of Shelley’s cheerfully slutting up the nerdy Zeta girls so that boys will like them. But this unbelievably vapid excuse for a comedy does nothing to actually support such a contention — that Shelley is wrong about what boys like — and instead offers up these women as willing sacrificial lambs to the satan of conformity that demands they adhere to a brand of “acceptable” appearance and behavior that is so narrow that it’s all but impossible for any mere mortal to fall within it.

“Don’t be anything but hot, woman,” is the message of Bunny, though it does grudgingly acknowledge that if a gal is so stubborn enough that she insists upon “being herself,” it might possibly be okay as long as she makes sure “herself” is not too weird. As long as she remembers to be “hot” as well. And guys who say they want someone to talk to… they’re lying.

It’s all a sea of scary sadness — it even includes the contemporary studio comedy’s de rigueur reminder that women’s bodies are weird and disgusting unless men are looking at them, with the added bonus of including women ourselves among those repulsed by our own bodies. That’s a new low for the genre, and perhaps is something Bunny should be congratulated on.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
  • misterb

    MaryAnn,

    In the good old days, you might have written this review as if you *were* the House Bunny (as opposed to your sub-title on the main page) One of your reviews that I loved was the one that had the little hearts over the i’s. I’m sorry that I can’t remember the movie (no loss, I’m sure) or any of your lines, but I clearly remember LMAOF at the little hearts.

    I’m sure you are spot on with this review, and the more obscure reviews might confuse your modern trolls.

  • Ryan

    “they also wrote Ella Enchanted, which is one of the worst movies ever made. Not counting this one.”

    OK, I have to ask…did you get the vibe when watching Ella Enchanted, that is was like a bondage movie for children? I have to say that no movie I have ever watched creeped me out as much as that one did, but nobody else I talk to sees that strange subtext.

  • Then again, perhaps the only decent script screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith had in them was Legally Blonde, the trough of which they return to here…
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    I thought you liked Legally Blonde. You certainly gave it a most positive review.

  • Anne-Kari

    Misterb: that review you refer to it MAJ’s poetic take on Crossroads, if I’m not mistaken. It’s flipping hilarious, I agree.

  • Jurgan

    “I thought you liked Legally Blonde. You certainly gave it a most positive review.”

    Read what you quoted again- she said Legally Blonde was the “only good script” they had in them. So, yeah, she did like it.

    I also agree the Crossroads review was hilarious. As for other “in-character” reviews, I always liked the review of The Punisher.

  • Charles

    You may be thinking too much but in your local habitat they are always thinking too much about marketing false images to the world. The movies are doing it for humor and profit maybe but Madison Ave is selling the myths for pure profit and it is looked at as sofistication! So don’t blame it all on Hollywood.

  • ariadne

    Ryan: No, you’re not the only one–and I didn’t even see the movie! I got that vibe just from the trailers and the reviews I read.

  • Dan

    Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith also wrote “10 Things I Hate About You”, which was a fairly good script and movie.

    I love Anna Faris, but she needs a better agent.

  • Miguel

    I can’t understand the decent reviews this is getting. I saw it two months ago and expected it to reach 1-5% at the tomatometer, but some critics seem to be liking it!

    Not only was the ‘message’ demeaning to women (although they try to make it look like an empowering one), it is also PAINFULLY unfunny. This woman’s level of stupidity (someone who’s been a playboy bunny has probably been around theh block many times, in many different ways, to be so clueless about the world) is a la par with Legally blonde 2: red, white and retard (and you know you should NEVER go full retard!)

    I feel sorry for Ana Farris and her career, although she probably doesn’t feel sorry for herself at all. Who cares about dignity,when you’ve got hundreds of thousands (or is she in the millions league?) of dollars?

  • Sara

    Thanks MaryAnn…I’ll definitely skip this one. Watching this stuff sounds like a hazard of your job description. Keeps you in touch with pop culture and much of it is sad, as you point to…makes me wish my 9 year old and 11 year old nieces (so very empowered right now) didn’t have to move into adolescence with all this crap around them. Of course, it’s there already but will only get worse.

  • MaryAnn

    I love Anna Faris, but she needs a better agent.

    Faris developed this concept and pushed to get the movie produced. She’s entirely to blame for this, not her agent.

  • Read what you quoted again- she said Legally Blonde was the “only good script” they had in them. So, yeah, she did like it.
    –Jurgan

    Ok, I got that part. But “trough” is not normally a word I’d associate with a film that a particular person likes.

    My bad.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    …“boys don’t like girls who are too smart.” See, we’re supposed to see that Shelley is wrong…

    Sadly, I don’t know that she is wrong, in general.

    including women ourselves among those repulsed by our own bodies…

    See, that’s what I was talking about in my comment on the trailer. While I’ve no doubt you’re correct that men’s control of the studios determines what female filmmakers can do within the studio system, I can’t help but wonder if many wymyn creators have internalised these views. I can’t decide which is worse: intentionally producing misogynist tripe in order to be successful in Hollywood or being so thoroughly co-opted into your own oppression that you don’t even recognise that what you’re producing is misogynist tripe.

  • Sara

    Well, sadly, she might not be wrong, but women (or men) who maximize their talents and brains, they are more self-actualized, independent people.
    Women filmmakers can (and sometimes do–as males do sometimes too) break out of the androcentric mold. But, I definitely agree, women have internalized the dominant view and often see themselves as this view frames them. We swim in patriarchal waters and breath patriarchal air–some know it and do something about it, some don’t ever know it. (My opinion.) And even knowing it can still make it tough about what to do about it…how to get the screenplay accepted, how to get the part, how to get the job, how to get equal pay, etc.

  • Jigsy Q.

    I think “a sea of scary sadness” would make for the best review blurb ever.

  • MBI

    My God.

    My God.

    I just saw this movie, and… My God.

    This is the worst movie ever made.

  • MBI

    Stephanie Zacharek, one of the preeminent critics of the Web, gave this movie a thumbs-up.

    I think I’m going to vomit.

  • Ide Cyan

    It’s kind of scary that this movie sounds less subversive than Sorority Boys was.

  • This is the worst movie ever made.
    –MBI

    I wouldn’t go that far but it is a leading contender for that title. That karaoke scene alone was so painful to watch I’m surprised the movie didn’t get more harsh reviews than it actually did.

    I mean, I know Anna Faris is cute, but she’s not that cute.

    And seeing my beloved Beverly D’Angelo reduced to playing a cardboard villainess with the all-so-subtle name of Hagstrom was even more depressing than seeing my beloved Ann-Margaret reduced to playing a wacky drunk in Taxi.

    True, Hollywood is not necessarily all that kind to older male actors either; just look at the older cast members of Elf or Night in the Museum. But for some reason, some guy in Hollywood appears to have reserved a special circle in Hell for actresses above a certain age.

    Which might explain why the movie repeatedly skips the chance to make a badly needed point about ageism. And lookism.

  • MBI

    A day later, I am still waking up thinking about the horror that was this movie. I have never met a movie that so obviously demonstrated absolutely zero knowledge of nerds, sororities, college, pornography, or men. Nerd girls, especially cute ones like that lead redhead with the glasses, don’t fucking join sororities — they go to nerd clubs where they meet nerd guys, and those nerd guys, entranced by their combination of attractiveness and approachability, will follow them around like puppies. This is an absolutely repulsive movie.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    their combination of attractiveness and approachability

    Don’t forget the brains.

    Though I guess that goes under the nerd guy’s definition of ‘attractiveness’.

    If you haven’t seen the Nerd Porn video on YouTube, check it out. It includes the nerd girl turning the nerd guy on by beating him at chess and interrupting sex to watch Battlestar Galactica (that being a good thing).

  • I suspect MaryAnn is already aware of that video.

    But thanks for the thought.

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