House Bunny, The (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Length: 94 minutes
Grade: DCDD=D
Budget: $25 billion
Box Office: $70 million (48 U.S., 22 Intl., DVD)

Written by: Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (She’s the Man, Ella Enchanted, Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You)
Directed by: Fred Wolf, whose only other movie is Strange Wilderness.
Starring: Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone, Kat Dennings, Hugh Hefner, Christopher McDonald, Beverly D’Angelo, Katharine McPhee, and Sarah Wright.

When she loses her place at the Playboy Mansion, Shelly must find a way to make a living. Inadvertently, she stumbles onto Greek Row at a nearby university and winds up becoming the house mother for a group of misfit girls who are on the verge of losing their charter and house. In the process, she teaches them how to be popular and attractive.

Entertainment Value: D
This wasn’t totally awful, but it wasn’t really worth watching either. It wasn’t nearly as funny as I had expected, although it had its moments. I wanted to like it more than I actually did like it, and it really tried to salvage itself at the end, but all to no avail.

Superficial Content: D+
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity C, Violence B, Language D+, Illegality B
There is no actual nudity in this film, nor sex as I recall. But the whole thing is still saturated in sexuality in terms of pornography references and women learning how to dress and act like tarts, plus a scene where a girl coerces a man by twisting his nipples. The violence is pranks, physical comedy, and one scene where being burned is made into a joke. There’s a fair amount of partying and alcohol consumption. Language is at the upper limit of PG-13. In fact, this movie is definitely aimed at a college audience, and probably shouldn’t be watched by most minors. However, I’m glad they were trying for PG-13 because, had this been rated R, I’m pretty sure they would have gone much farther with every element of concern.

Significant Content: D
If you want to be popular, use the same methods that popular people use. Fish with the bait your prey desires (For men, sex appeal; for women, acceptance). Women need and want to be adored by men (that’s actually a good theme). Men are essentially sex-crazed fools. If you’re hot, you can do anything. If you’re not hot, you can learn to be hot. If Cosmo made a movie, they’d make this. The one shining moment in the film was when the geeks became popular and started acting like the evil popular girls before catching themselves doing so.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
Every standard movie trick is used here, music over scenes without dialogue, the evil enemy and her evil house mom. There’s no redemption here at all, which I would have liked to see. It’s just silly and disappointing, mostly because it’s like a worse version of every other movie like this ever made, all the way back to Revenge of the Nerds, which at least didn’t “fix” the nerds by giving them makeovers.

Discussion Questions:
~The movie says nursing homes are like an orphanage for old people. What do you think of this?
~Is it plausible that Oliver would be attracted to Shelly? Why?
~Is it likely that Natalie would really have an interest in Colby? Why?
~Is it true that men only want what other men want?
~To what degree is it healthy to work on being attractive? To what degree is it unhealthy?
~Is it possible to cultivate external (or internal beauty) without judging other people who haven’t cultivated this?
~How is beauty (or intelligence, or charm) a source of identity for people? What should their source of identity be?
~Should Playboy and the Playboy Mansion be treated as mainstream things?

~“Feeling good on the inside is all about looking good on the outside.” What do you think?
Overall Grade: D
Much less funny than I had hoped, and far more counterproductive than I wanted. Christianity Today didn’t even review this one. How lucky for them. After all, what's the real message here? The world would be better if only every sorority house were more like the Playboy Mansion?

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