Saturday, August 30, 2008

The House Bunny (2008)

I caught one of those movie review shows over the weekend and the two critics were debating The House Bunny. They both agreed the movie was "intermittently funny" but "insulting to women" and that the portrayals of the female characters in the movie provoked "shock and disgust." One of the critics wanted to blame this perceived sexism on Adam Sandler, one of the film's producers.

No mention was made of the fact that the film's writers, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, are women. Or that as a team, these talented ladies have been involved in a series of movies that, like The House Bunny, address and critique the way women navigate a male-dominated world. They include 10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde, and Ella Enchanted which I just happened to watch last night and is an altogether delightful fairy tale and a thoroughly empowering one to boot.

The House Bunny stars Anna Faris as Shelly, a Playboy bunny whose 27th birthday present from Hugh Hefner is a swift kick to the curb (27, you see, is 59 in Playboy bunny years). Despondent, Shelly wanders aimlessly into fraternity house row at a local university and declaring that they look like "miniature Playboy mansions" sets about trying to find out how to secure lodging within. After she learns that each one has its own house mother, Shelly secures a position watching over the disheveled girls of Zeta House (whose Greek letters, zeta alpha zeta, form a unmissable reference to the great titans of idiot humour, the Zuckers, for those in the know). The Zetas are in danger of losing their spot at the school because of a lack of pledges; Shelly teaches the girls to be hot in order to drum up interest.

So, the path to success in life lies in stripper heels and micro minis? Of course not, but The House Bunny isn't prudish enough to reject stripper heels and micro minis either. Shelly's lessons on the timeless art of seduction take, but a little too well, and eventually the Zetas realize they've become the thing they hate the most. Being true to (and proud of) yourself is the ultimate message and if the girls do come out the other side of their ordeal with a kicking makeover it's mostly an outward reflection of their newfound confidence. To call this movie sexist is to call Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder a racist. Using the language of racism or sexism to make a point about it is not racism or sexism.

Sadly they did not get it. Nor did they get the appeal of the divine Ms. Faris, claiming she's rehashing the same character she's played before, which is obviously not true (The only thing Shelly and Jane F. from Smiley Face have in common is the color of their hair). And I'm sure at the end of a very comedy crowded summer, The House Bunny is going to get lost in the shuffle. But I encourage you to seek it out, at least when it comes to DVD. Don't listen to the naysayers -- after all, just a few segments later one of these same critics was railing against the onslaught of product placement in the upcoming James Bond sequel about four minutes after he'd introduced a segment called the "Netflix Video Pick of the Week." Right.

NOTE: For more on the endless appeal of Anna Faris, enjoy R. Emmet Sweeney's piece about the actress' charms at



Blogger R. Emmet Sweeney said...

I, of course, agree with you 100%. And while Faris is wonderful, the supporting cast was very game too, including great frazzled work from Emma Stone.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

While I generally agree with you, I'm not sure how much of the movie's low-key success I'd attribute to its makers. The best I can say of the material is that it doesn't get in the way of the adept performers, mainly Faris and Stone (whose natural charm is truly wasted in The Rocker). I didn't find it sexist so much as sort of a half-assed compromise. Most of the supporting girls aren't well-developed enough for me to figure out when they're "being themselves" or how/if they've improved themselves (apart from the most immediate, obvious way: physical change).

A fairly charming movie with a terrific comic performance, but I was hoping for something a bit more like Bring It On (or even Ten Things I Hate About You) than Legally Blonde -- another comedically wan movie with a knockout performance (though I do prefer House Bunny to that one).

12:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home