Jarv’s Birthday Series Redux: The House Bunny (2008)
If there’s one genre that I haven’t got any luck with on these stupid Birthday series things, then that genre is comedy. The drivel that I’ve sat through in the name of “humour” has frankly made me despair for humanity, and so when The House Bunny came out of the hat for 2008’s (22nd August release date in America)representative on my lengthy paean to self-flagellation, my heart sank. I put it on fully expecting an annoying and obnoxious repeat of some of the shite that I’ve sat through such as My Boss’ Daughter, but vaguely hopeful that it may be a bit better. Not a lot better, but if it was good enough for me to get through without wanting to turn my own eyes into melon balls, then that would be a vast improvement.
No cockwomble sightings, but there may be the odd spoiler or two.
The omens, to be honest, weren’t very good. Anna Faris plays Shelly, and she helpfully opens the film with a narration explaining that she was an orphan who never had a home until she moved into the Playboy mansion. Little Shelly, you see, has a long standing dream to be the centrefold, and she has her eyes on Miss November. In the meantime, everyone in the mansion loves her, and she’s the life and soul of the place. Unfortunately, Shelly is manipulated into leaving the mansion, and becomes homeless. After being arrested and spending the night in the cells (probably the funniest scene in the film), Shelly strikes the genius idea of becoming a sorority mother, and picks Zeta House, populated by 7 desperate (and desperately unconvincing) nerd girls who are about to lose their charter. Gradually the irrepressible Shelly’s spirit wins through, and after a heartwarming ending, everyone learns something about themselves.
This is a strange beast. The casting, to begin with, is understandable but way off. The girls selected for the “nerdy” house are in no stretch of the imagination actually as dorky and unattractive as the film wants them to be (with 2 exceptions). Seriously, they’ve cast Kat Dennings, Katherine McPhee, Kiely Williams, and, unbelievably, Emma Stone as the girls. Admittedly, Rumor Willis and a midget do up the dork side a bit, but seriously, would you say any of the first 4 names mentioned are unattractive nerds? Emma Stone Zombieland has trouble picking up men, does she? To be fair, the film goes out of its way to show us how unattractive she is by, er, having her wear glasses, so we all know she’s a difficult intellectual, possibly feminist, pigdog of a woman. Honestly, Hollywood must think there’s some kind of Clark Kent and Superman effect whereby a woman puts glasses on and suddenly ceases to be attractive. Nevertheless, all the acting, including from Colin Hanks as nerdy love interest, is basically acceptable. Faris tries particularly hard, and is reasonably OK and likeable as the ditz, but there’s not a lot for her to work with.
The problem with modern comedy is that for the most part, and I hate to sound like an unreconstructed chauvinist pig here, they insist on giving funny lines to women, particularly gross out shame comedy, and it’s, well, just not funny in the slightest. In this case, the whole film is entirely female-centric and the women in question don’t have a great gift for crass humour. Rumour Willis in particular has an execrable sequence where she tries to chat up a guy by explaining to him how much she needs a crap. Hahahahahahahaha. Funny. Faris is a trouper, but there’s a repeated gag about her making a strange voice when she’s trying to remember a name that must have been a scream on paper that’s just, well, lame on screen.
Really, this is as trite and clichéd a film as you can imagine. We’ve all seen this sort of thing done hundreds of times before, and in far more successful ways, than this little film can manage. The central premise isn’t amusing enough in itself to sustain a film, feeling more like a Saturday Night Live skit that’s vaguely sneering at these dimwitted glamour models extended far beyond it’s natural lifespan. Nevertheless, individual scenes, such as Faris in the tank with the hookers are funny, and these little moments go a long way to whatever success you can ascribe to the film.
Coupled with the essential lack of humour here is the trite message about being “ugly on the inside”. Except this time even director Fred Wolf knows that the message is hackneyed so almost skims over the top of it. Instead, the film does something that I applaud and I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before. The girls realise that there’s no point being an uber-dork male repellent on legs, but at the same score, they don’t want to become a group of ultra-vacuous sorority bitches. Instead, the ideal compromise is to be “half Shelly”. Which, I have to say, is a great idea- and I wish more films would acknowledge the real world like this, rather than pretending that people will love you because of what you are on the inside. Incidentally, what if you’re really ugly and an absolute bitch? How does that work for Hollywoodland?
Overall, I’m making this sound like Orangutan of Doom fodder, and it isn’t that bad. I sat there, admittedly barely cracking a smile, with the film washing over me in the most inoffensive way imaginable. I don’t recommend this, because it isn’t any good, but it’s not obnoxious or hateful. In fact, were I to see this on a Saturday afternoon then it would pass without nary a comment. Simply put, it’s not like Van Wilder or even the later American Pie sequels, in that while it is crass, it isn’t mean spirited. As a result, I give the House Bunny 1 disturbing transvestite Bugs Bunny out of a possible 4.
Next up is a far more obnoxious comedy than this one. Pan faced ultra dog Katherine Heigl gets on my last nerve in Knocked Up.
The Full List for the Birthday Series Redux:
- 2011- The Skin I Live In (2.5 out of 4)
- 2010- The Last Exorcism (2.5 out of 4)
- 2009- Post Grad (1 out of 4)
- 2008- The House Bunny (1 out of 4)
- 2007- Knocked Up
- 2006- Volver
- 2005- Red Eye
- 2004- Dead Clowns
- 2003- Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
- 2002- Talk to Her
- 2001- Jeeper’s Creepers
- 2000- Gossip
- 1999- All About My Mother
- 1998- The X-Files
- 1997- Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
- 1996- The Last Supper
- 1995- The Usual Suspects
- 1994- The Color of Night
- 1993- Surf Ninjas
- 1992- The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
- 1991- Pump Up the Volume
- 1990- Wild at Heart
- 1989- Bull Durham
- 1988- Crossing Delancey
- 1987- The Big Easy
- 1986- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- 1985- Better off Dead
- 1984- Oxford Blues
- 1983- MetalStorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
- 1982- The Thing
- 1981- Honky Tonk Freeway
- 1980- Schock
- 1979- Rich Kids
- 1978- Coma