20 March 2009

Movie Review: The House Bunny


C

The House Bunny
2008, 97mins, PG-13
Director: Fred Wolf
Writer (s): Karen McCullah Lutz, Kristen Smith
Cast includes: Anna Faris, Emma Stone, Colin Hanks, Kat Dennings, Christopher McDonald, Rumer Willis
Release Date : 22nd August 2008

It’s always disappointing when an excellent opening gives way to a turgid finish, a problem especially potent and problematic in the comedy genre. If the first 40 minutes are able to bring up a respectable gag rate and consistently seem fresh and funny it’s going to be the death knell when the picture’s finish limply dies onscreen managing only a sliver of the appeal provided by earlier moments. Such is the case with The House Bunny a film undermined by the fact it slowly runs out of steam from about the half way point, until at the finish it’s all but stalled.

Shelley (Anna Faris) is a Playboy Bunny living out her dream life in the legendary mansion; the only thing missing is the opportunity to appear as a centerfold in the publication. On her 27th birthday it appears that her wish may be granted but sadly in a twisted turn of events she finds herself on the street (she’s apparently 59 in bunny years), and looking at a much less luxurious life. By chance she stumbles upon the local Fraternities and more specifically the ZETA house, a bunch of girls both charming and intelligent but lacking in any sort of social skill or consideration for appearance. Shelley moves in and begins to teach the girls the ins and outs of fashion and men, meaning that within no time at all the ZETA group are the most desired on campus. However in order to keep the house open the group need to find 30 more pledges and whilst Shelley has taught them the importance of looking good, it soon transpires she may also need to teach them the art of being themselves.

Anna Faris is in truth the key reason why the better parts of The House Bunny work so well, her charming, goofy and frequently hysterical turn give the film a shot of energy that would otherwise take proceedings from being unremarkable to downright weak. Faris is an actress in need of a more focused industry spotlight and a spate of really solid comedic projects, because whilst her comic timing and bubbly enthusiasm or impeccable here, they’re lightly hampered by the scattershot scripting. In support Emma Stone is notable in that she is the only one of the ZETA crew to make a mark with the audience whilst Colin Hanks is left squirming in a formulaic and underwritten romantic subplot.

It’s hard to say how much of the screenplay hits and misses, a lot of the time one suspects that the finer comedic moments are coming via Faris’s ditzy but rather inspired improv. Certainly in terms of story the first half works well and seems nicely paced with a few interesting ideas to compensate for the more generic ones, sadly the same can’t be said for the uninspired and hardly worth watching climactic section. The energy levels that seemed so high and prosperous at the beginning start to fail as the a familiar moral code is hit home and the picture winds to a conclusion miles beneath what proceeded it. The movie works when it rides of the charm of its leading lady and heads for slapstick lunacy, on more emotional and saccharine paths it crumbles pathetically.

The movie is a lot less cringe inducing than the premise suggests, in fact for those who like their filmmaking energetic and friendly you might say that the first half at least is shocking in how watchable it is. Sadly beyond that and its leading ladies performance The House Bunny is a disappointingly ordinary motion picture, unlikely to repel but to vapid to live long in anyone’s memory



A film review by Daniel Kelly, 2009

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