Movie Review: The House Bunny

House Bunny2008. Starring Anna Faris, Emma Stone.

Beauty and brains. Rarely do the two co-exist.

As I said back in August, when penning an admiring (and not-at-all-creepy) tribute to Anna Faris, she is capable of carrying an average comedy into a next level of funny. In The House Bunny, she portrays Shelly Darlington, a 27-year-old resident of the Playboy Mansion who dreams of putting that beauty on display as a centerfold. Instead, she is kicked out of the mansion and, now homeless, staggers onto the distressed yard of a sorority much in need of her help. The Zetas, made up of a half-dozen socially awkward sisters who need a big boost in popularity to save their frumpy house.

Anyone in need of more plot description need only watch Revenge of the Nerds, or any other campus-based comedy from the 1980s.

But I’m going to expound a bit more on Ms. Faris. She really is this movie, breathing life into every line, mining comedy gold from the dumbest things. (“How did you know I was here?” she asks a housemate. “A little bird told me,” is the reply. Shelly looks panicked: “What BIRD?”) She transforms the sorority sisters, of course, into a still-awkward-but-at-least-attractive bunch who can throw a killer party and finally talk to the guys on whom they’ve had crushes. (Unfortunately, there’s no makeover for the dull dudes who earn their interest.) But the real lesson here is that true beauty lies in being yourself. . .

Whatever. With an exception for the adorable Emma Stone (who plays the coolest nerd, Natalie), the House Bunny rides on the lovely shoulders of Anna Faris. Maybe it’s her exclamation when knocking over a table in a restaurant — “SWEET BALLS!” — or her dude-scoping directions to her sisters, “Check out that box of Cutesicles,” she nails every line, and is disturbingly natural as the ditzy-but-golden-hearted housemom who considers being called “vapid” a compliment.

The subplot actually works too, as Shelly falls for a guy who volunteers at an old-folks home — kinda like the orphanage where she grew up, you know, but for old people — and feels that she’s not smart enough for a guy who doesn’t fall for the regular tricks. She gets help from her newly glamorized charges and learns the same lessons about being yourself. . .

So, yeah. The House Bunny isn’t The Seven Samurai, or even Two-Lane Blacktop, but it was entirely watchable. And Anna Faris is entirely charming. And true to the spirit of the movie, she’s never sexier than when, looking so cute, she’s in a library, up to her lovely elbows in dusty old books. There’s just something about the power of brains times beauty.

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