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Through ups, downs, Anna Faris carries 'The House Bunny'

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Through ups, downs, Anna Faris carries 'The House Bunny'
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The House Bunny

3 out of 5 stars

I dearly love Anna Faris, I really do. I have adored her ever since I saw her in the first Scary Movie installments. And it is her presence alone that saves a film like The House Bunny.


My interest for The House Bunny was like a see-saw.... A movie about a Playboy bunny: good. A PG-13 rating: bad. Anna Faris as said Playboy bunny: good. Overblown collagen lip injections: bad. Cameos by the Girls Next Door: good. An attempt at acting by Hugh Hefner: bad.

I wasn't exactly dreading this film, but I wasn't really looking forward to it, either. The trailers were funny enough, but even then some of the jokes fell flat. And if jokes don't work in a trailer, which basically distills all the good moments from a movie into two and a half minutes, the movie has a strong possibility of sucking.

The movie tells the story of a Playboy model named Shelly (Faris) who is kicked out of the mansion because she's too old. (While she's only 27, it's explained to her that this is 59 in "bunny years.") Because she's been living under Hef's roof for nine years and has no idea how to make it on her own, she finds the next best thing - being a house mother for a sorority.

Of course, Shelly ends up picking the lamest sorority on campus. The Zeta House has only seven members and is the dorkiest sorority on campus. But Shelly steps in a soon teaches the girls how to make themselves look good, reinvent their image and attract boys.

The best part of this film is Anna Faris. She is perfect as the ditzy blond bimbo who just doesn't quite understand life. Her grasp of humor and slapstick is perfect and saves the film from despair.

Much of the rest of the movie is rather mundane, or misguided. We've seen these social rags-to-riches films before, and there are moments blatantly stolen from other (and often better) Greek/college movies like "Revenge of the Nerds," "Sydney White" or "Animal House."

Too often, the movie tries to have a message, but then it shoots itself in the foot. On one hand, it's nice to see the dorky zeta girls get gussied up, but not all of them are particularly attractive even after the salon. Also, it seems that the movie preaches that people should be true to themselves, but then all of the girls abandon their individuality (as geeky or as frumpy as it is) for the bubble gum styles.

We have the cardboard evil sorority girls trying to get the zetas to lose their charter so they can get their house (which I believe was a plot point used in "Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj"), and this seems forced just to create a villain on screen. Likewise, once the zeta girls get their make-overs, they're striking up relationships with popular guys who are basic fraternity pigs only interested in getting in their pants.

Low expectations has been the name of the game this weekend. If you go into many of the new releases thinking they're going to be hilarious or powerful films, you'll be sorely disappointed. However, if you go into these movies realizing that August is the dumping ground for movies that just couldn't survive with an earlier summer release date, you might find something to enjoy.

There's been worse stuff released over the past few weeks, like "Meet Dave" or "The Love Guru." I'll take Anna Faris in a bikini top and hot pants over those films any day.

Kevin Carr is an independent writer, journalist and filmmaker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.