Long held under the title of “Untitled Anna Faris Project”, The House Bunny eventually made its way to theaters in August of this year and ended up making quite a bit of cash for a film that was mostly panned by critics. Although its reception was harsh, the box office receipts proved that the time was ripe for a female charged comedy and the resulting $48 million it pulled in nearly doubled the budget of the film alone. Not a box office smash by any means, but Faris’s The House Bunny proved she had it in her to carry a film by herself, which will no doubt lend to her more opportunities for future starring roles.
Shelley (Anna Faris) is living a carefree life until a rival gets her tossed out of the Playboy Mansion. With nowhere to go, fate delivers her to the sorority girls from Zeta Alpha Zeta. Unless they can sign a new pledge class, the seven socially clueless women will lose their house to the scheming girls of Phi Iota Mu. In order to accomplish their goal, they need Shelley to teach them the ways of makeup and men; at the same time, Shelley needs some of what the Zetas have – a sense of individuality. The combination leads all the girls to learn how to stop pretending and start being themselves.
I was under the assumption that this film did a fair bit better than it actually did for some reason and I distinctly remember hearing great things about the film when it originally hit. Still, I was disappointed with it long before I hopped online to check what it made at the box office and the general critical reception, simply because the film was so formulaic. I had hoped it was one of those new “fresh” films that, while reusing old plot elements, still remained something that at least felt new. But here, aside from a unique scenario, there isn’t anything to set this apart from other estrogen fueled flicks—which isn’t a bad thing, per say, but obviously it’s not going to be by my cup of tea.
Of course to write off the entire film simply because it isn’t targeted at my gender isn’t reason to dismiss it, and even when films are made to be sectioned off to one gender type, there’s usually something to enjoy here for everyone and, not surprisingly, that holds true here. Perhaps the most consistent thing about this film was the role that Faris made pop in this film; nearly everything she said was hilarious and at the same time didn’t always fall into the stereotypical “dumb blonde” role that her visage is trying to project onto the audience. There are some genuinely original and humorous jokes that are tossed throughout this entire film and there were few moments that I wasn’t laughing when she was on screen.
Unfortunately where the film faltered was whenever we’d see the rival sorority house, or even when the core Zeta’s themselves were on screen. Even sorority leaders Emma Stone and Kat Dennings, two stars on the rise themselves, were mostly wasted here with very little in terms of comedy to deal with and the sorority’s eventual dissention into complete vapidness was also foreseen way before the film even reached that point.
Really the major thing that hurt this film was its predictability. If it’d been a bit more focused on less formulaic storytelling, I’m sure it would’ve won more audience members over. As is it’s a very dull and superficial film and honestly I wish I could say more positive things about it. Colin Hanks feels underused and the rest of the stars in the film just don’t make much of an impact on the viewer. Faris, again, is highly entertaining and honestly the film is worth seeing just for her performance. Whether its visual gags or bits of dialogue that flies out of her mouth, Faris’s Shelley is one of the more entertaining Playboy Bunny spoofs in recent years. Hell, it didn’t hurt that Hefner showed up in a supporting role that was hilarious just because it was actually him playing it.
Overall I will say that this is worth a Rental at the very least. It’s certainly not a horrible film, but it’s just a paint-by-numbers type fair that will neither impress nor really offend you. Obviously it’ll help if you’re in the target group that this film is darting for, but guys shouldn’t be too seat-shifty if they’re forced to watch it. There are some genuine laughs to be had, but by and large it’s just a 97 minute film of the same ol’ same ol’.
This Blu-ray is a tad bit overkill. The set itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with an insert advertising the format and disc art that mimics the rear cover art. Menus are simple and easy to navigate for this release and I doubt anyone will have too much bad to say about the overall appearance of the package.
Video arrives in an AVC encoded 2.40:1 mix that is satisfactory. It’s a modern comedy and these aren’t always the most riveting when it comes to Blu-ray, mainly because it’s…well, just not that amazing. Colors are great, details are high and there isn’t really anything about the print that looks off, but there isn’t a whole lot here to amaze either (kind of like the film itself). I will say the daytime sequences pop with a great deal of color, but inside sequences, of the Zeta house especially, are a bit drab that’s likely due to the brown colors everywhere. Still, it’s a solid looking film, but nothing I’d tout as reference worthy.
Audio is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that becomes the most active when the films varied soundtrack comes blasting in. Whether it’s Avril Lavigne or Yael Naim, the music is clean and clear with this film, which is all you’ll ever really hear in the surrounds. Being predominately dialogue driven, the majority of the sound comes from the front channels, although the second dinner scene between Faris and Hanks has a bit more oomph due to the visual pratfalls.
Moving onto the extras we find a fair bit to sort through. First up is an array of Deleted Scenes (12:01, SD), which is our only set of standard definition extras of the set. The remaining extras, featurettes mainly, are all in 1080i. Rather annoyingly, the remaining extras are tossed into a “Featurettes” category on the menu, which results in a lot of scrolling as there are a dozen of these to check out, and none of them are very long in length. A quick “Play All” button would have been nice, but oh well. The featurettes are as follows: Anna Faris: House Mom (5:51), The Girls of Zeta (5:27), The Girls Upstairs (3:13) , Colin Hanks: Mr. Nice Guy (4:49) , From Song to Set: Katharine McPhee (4:24) , From Tourbus to Trailer: Tyson Ritter (5:19) , Look Who Dropped By (4:29) , House Bunny Style (6:12) , Zeta’s Transformed (2:37) , Getting Ready for a Party (3:27) , Calendar Girls (3:57) , and House Bunny Memories (4:20). Most are self explanatory in that they focus on specific actors/actresses and guest stars in the film (I didn’t even realize that was Shaq in it until I watched that extra), and very little is spent on the actual making of the film itself, although there are snippets show in each of the featurettes.
The final extras that wrap up the set is a two-part I Know What Boys Like (0:30 intro, 2:21 music video) music video performed by film star/writer Katharine McPhee. There are some trailers as well, of course, but that’s to be expected.
Overall a fair release overall, but still only worth a Rental.
The House Bunny is now available on DVD and Blu-ray