Read previous Eats & Entertainment columns


August 27, 2008

FILM REVIEW: House Bunny Does One Thing Well


By Nathaniel Shockey

The only reason I saw House Bunny was because it was the most popular movie that came out last weekend, and nothing else looked particularly good anyway. I approached it with low expectations, anticipating a cheap, trashy movie. But as is often the case, expectations surpassed reality.


The Playboy empire is probably one of the most brilliantly run businesses in history. Any business founded on selling pictures of naked women, especially naked women who are 99 percent fake, ought to be an underground one. How could it stand up for one second in the light of any society that claims an ounce of moral integrity? Evidently, there is a way.


The trick is to focus primarily on the mesmerizing glow of barely clothed artificial bodies. Then you give a girl like this a totally artificial personality, and make it seem like she is emotionally stable, yet morally complex. The only ones allowed to publicly judge this industry are those with the last names Dobson or Falwell.


House Bunny provided a good example of these tactics.


The large portion of the movie featured scantily clad women with artificial bodies, the main character, Shelley, being the worst of them all. At the beginning of the movie, she lives in the Playboy mansion, with plenty of screen time for Hugh Hefner, the cast of his hit show, The Girls Next Door, and even cameos from Matt Leinart and Shaquille O’Neal. (Leinart’s pursuit of an acting career helps explain his lackluster performance as an NFL quarterback.) That’s another way Hefner has managed to legitimize Playboy. He constantly features popular celebrities who willingly associate with him.


Anyway, Shelley is forced to move out of the mansion by another jealous resident and finds herself on a college campus. She becomes a “house mother” of an unpopular sorority on the brink of extinction, and convinces the girls that the trick to getting men is to show skin, be flirty, and act really stupid. And of course, any sorority that successfully seduces brainless men will have no problem finding plenty of women interested in joining.


Shelley turns the sorority around by turning them all into seductresses, teaching them about how to dress sexy, how to apply makeup, and even makes a sexy calendar that is a big success. She also meets a boy, played by Colin Hanks, who is not only interested in her looks, but in the real her as well.


To make a long story short, she eventually learns that it’s OK to be smart, that as much as she loved staying at the Playboy mansion, she’d rather stay with her sorority girls, and that there is a nice middle ground between being intelligent and being a Playboy bunny.


It all seems ridiculous when considering the concepts as they actually are. But if everyone did this, Playboy would not enjoy the outrageously prominent position it currently holds in American society. Hefner’s genius is to act like he’s dealing with the morality without actually dealing with it at all.


This movie made a vigorous effort to handle the “moral complexity” of seduction. The girls were constantly debating what was socially acceptable, how to avoid losing one’s individuality, what it is that guys actually like and even the best way to go about recruiting girls for a sorority (the ultimate conclusion was to choose them at random). In the meantime, suffice it to say that the plot suffered.


First there was the intelligent blonde dichotomy from Legally Blonde. Then there was the “save our frat” aspect of Old School. There was also the “find a man who likes me for me” idea from every movie ever. And then there was Playboy, which the writers inserted very clumsily even though it would seem to be a perfect fit for a movie of this nature. The only chance to partially salvage a movie like this is humor, and the movie wasn’t even funny. Not only did I fail to laugh, but in an audience of about 30, there were about six audible laughs in the entire movie.


It’s hard to criticize the acting of the main character, played by Anna Faris, because her character, much like that of anyone indoctrinated by the Playboy industry, is completely unrealistic.


The movie did one thing well. It ended.


One star out of four


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.


This is Column # EE037. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
David J. Pollay
Eats & Entertainment
The Laughing Chef