Kudos to the marketing team who created the trailer for “The House Bunny,” which has a good handful of laughs and makes it seem like the movie will have many more. But no, the only funny stuff in “House Bunny” is in that coming-attractions preview, and everything else is moronic, predictable, clunky and borderline misogynist.
It’s a movie that wastes the talents of up-and-comers (Emma Stone from “Superbad”), rising stars (the sublimely funny — in other movies — Anna Faris) and talented vets (Beverly D’Angelo, looking like she wishes she were anywhere else) alike.
Shelley (Faris) grew up in an orphanage before growing up and finally finding a home with Hef and the gals at the Playboy Mansion. But just when she’s about to finally get named Miss November, Shelley gets a letter asking her to vacate the premises; she has, after all, just turned 27, which is “59 in bunny years.”
Adrift, she winds up finding the functional equivalent to the Mansion — sorority row at a local university. But the only house that needs a mother is the Zetas, a ramshackle group of unpopular girls who are about to lose their lease because they haven’t had new pledges in years. When Zeta president Natalie (Stone) sees Shelley working her magic on the local frat boys, the former Playmate gets pressed into service and given the task of making the frumpy gals popular enough to attract new members.
Cue the obligatory shopping-and-makeover montage, where punky feminist Mona (Kat Dennings) removes her facial piercings while back-brace–enclosed Joanne (Rumer Willis) accessorizes her orthopedic appliance with dazzling appliqués. Of course, given the film’s premise that the Zetas don’t know how to talk to boys, no one ever explains why hippie Harmony (“American Idol” finalist Katharine McPhee) spends most of the movie in a third-trimester pregnancy.
Harmony’s bun in the oven is just one of many plot contrivances in “The House Bunny” that makes little to no sense. Most illogical is the tacked-on romance between Shelley and nice-guy Oliver (Colin Hanks), who runs a local nursing home. She spends one dinner date with him doing her usual flirty tricks and another one trying to pass herself off as smarter than she really is, but there’s never a moment where the two of them seem to actually connect, so we never really care whether or not they finally get together.
“Legally Blonde” scribes Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith try desperately to rekindle the magic of that earlier triumph-of-the-bimbo classic, but “House Bunny” lacks the pop of a smart comedy. Characters completely change at random, misunderstandings are inflated to catastrophic levels, and the sputtering narrative has that feel of a movie that’s been extensively re-edited past the point of all coherence.
No surprise, then, that the director behind this mishmash is one Fred Wolf, who made his behind-the-camera debut with “Strange Wilderness,” which remains as of this writing the very worst film of 2008. There was nowhere to go but up from there, granted, but “House Bunny” doesn’t make the case that this man should be allowed within 25 yards of a movie camera. Watch the trailer on YouTube, and you’re done.