Rating: 2.5 stars]
Will The House Bunny finally be the movie that makes Anna Faris a star? I’ve watched this young actress with interest since she did a spot-on Cameron Diaz impression in Lost in Translation, waiting for her to catch fire. Since then, she’s been a fixture in that moronic Scary Movie franchise (playing the clueless blonde in distress) and had supporting parts in second rate comedies like Just Friends and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. But she hasn’t had a major breakthrough.
If The House Bunny becomes even a middling hit, it’ll be because of Faris, who is adorable, game for anything, and has pitch-perfect comic timing. She’s a natural.
Here, she plays orphan-turned-Playboy Bunny Shelley Darlington, who luxuriates in the stable sense of home that the Playboy Mansion provides. All that is taken away when she receives a note from Hef telling her to vacate the premises—at 27, she is no longer the D-cup of the month.
Like Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Faris’s Darlington is unfailingly sunny and naively optimistic in the face of any setback. Undaunted by her predicament, she wanders onto a college campus and ends up as the House Mother for a sorority of misfits and nerds.
Everything you expect to happen does: First, Shelley gives the girls makeovers and teaches them how to flirt with boys. Then, she meets a nice scholarly young man (Colin Hanks), who doesn’t fall for any of her sex kitten tricks. Finally, everyone learns life lessons about the value of inner beauty.
Hanks is an appealing romantic lead, although he doesn’t display the star power of daddy Tom. As the sorority sisters, Katherine McPhee of American Idol fame and Rumor Willis (Demi and Bruce's daughter) are cute, but forgettable. Standouts include Kat Dennings as the house punk and Emma Stone—who’s having a heckuva week (she’s the best thing in The Rocker)—as the house’s brainy, loquacious head sister.
But it’s Faris’s show. She has a recurring joke—as a mnemonic device when learning new names, Shelley repeats the name in a demonic Linda Blair voice—that works every time. Just when you think she’s milked the joke one time too many, she makes you crack up again. Now that’s a star.