Review: The House Bunny (2008) ****

There is something caustic and bright and bitter and totally unhinged about 2000s comedies, especially college comedies. Every movie asks you to enter a fantasy world of its construction; comedies of this era made a fantasy where there was only Hot Girls and Ugly Girls. One type existed visibly, with value, and the other type was a makeover away from becoming the first kind, which is important. All women exist relative to their importance to heterosexual white male boners.

The House Bunny resides firmly in a more sympathetic corner of this universe, but nonetheless the same universe, and as a femme who was unlucky enough to turn 20-years-old in 2008, it’s hard to react positively to *any* corner of it. In many ways, The House Bunny externalizes so many of the most toxic ideas that I had managed to internalize from my environment.

It’s remarkable, then, that I could receive The House Bunny without any protective nostalgia (I hadn’t seen it before now!), and still manage to fall smitten with a whole lot of it.

I don’t think there’s much point in talking about anyone but Anna Faris. That’s not to say that there weren’t a lot of great performances – the ensemble is stacked to a ridiculous degree, including Adam Sandler’s favorites and a few smart picks from the outside – but that Anna Faris-with-character-appropriate-fresh-lip-fillers delivers a once-in-a-lifetime performance so singular, I wonder why she never “blew up” bigger in the industry.

The exact same screenplay would have been radically different led by anyone else, and I can’t imagine *anybody* with the combination of comic talents that Anna Faris has. Her warmth, vulnerability, and good humor are matched by a propensity for also suddenly scream-snarling and staggering away from a grate with second-degree-burns. She goes from saying everyone’s names in a monster-voice to being irresistibly sweet to cackle-shriek funny within the same sentence sometimes. I don’t understand how it’s possible to do it in a way that feels lovably authentic.

I want this woman to be my best friend, my mom, my wife, etc.

Also, having always seen Anna Faris in more normal contexts outside of this, like holy shit she’s so banging? Her body? Is? Ridiculous? She looks better than Playboy Bunnies do, and in fact looks better than the beauty standards of the era, which were pretty anemic. I don’t wanna get gross out loud about her physique but, just, damn. I could go on for a while. I will be going on for a while, privately.

(What the hell is wrong with Chris Pratt?)

I’ve never seen Emma Stone this good, either. With the excellence of Faris, nobody should be able to keep up with her, but Stone is actually a perfect foil. They’re such a good girly comic duo, more similar than different, though with wholly different results. Faris’s character is usually sexy when she lets loose because she’s a Sexy Person, but when Stone tries to sexily let loose, she’s off on a rant about mice dressed as Abraham Lincoln, and I like both of them so much.

If I wrote paragraphs about every actress who murdered in this movie, I’d be doing a master’s thesis. Beverly D’Angelo is in the movie. BEVERLY D’ANGELO! Oh my God, I wish she would punch me in the tit. So I just wanna add that Adam Sandler’s friend Dana Goodman playing a Zeta member who is essentially a human yeti is entirely glorious.

I love women too much not to love this movie, basically.

I get the sense that The House Bunny wanted to love women more than the culture of 2008 did, too. Maybe this was the start of something new and better? Most tropes could have been performed more offensively, for however much that means. They veered away from homophobic representations. In fact, in The House Bunny, anything other than heterosexuality is utterly nonexistent, even for the gratification of the male gaze. (Think of how many comedies you’ve seen with excuses made up for straight girls to wrestle and/or kiss.) It’s possible they chose zero gay rep over homophobia. It’s *so* aggressively straight. Again: Zetas may be ugly, disabled, not white, or very hot but pregnant, but they may not be queer.

The movie, my life, and society in general would have been better if Faris and Stone’s characters were capable of seeing how they helped one another become better, and if they could have had a romantic resolution together. Instead, there are two random dudes to reward the girls for their personal growth. Okay fine whatever.

(Yes, I really do think every movie from the 00s would be better with more lesbians and trans women, and considering how brutal that decade was to live through as a girl romancing girls, I shall make no apologies for my unchecked rage.)

The bitterest pill to swallow in retrospect is the myth of Hefner and the Playboy Bunnies, as we know everything happening there was greasy, gross, exploitative, and not nearly as fabulous as the reality show sought to portray it. You have to accept that myth to enjoy this movie because The House Bunny relies upon the idea that Anna Faris could be a pure soul because she was so loved and accepted among her hypersexual sistren at the always-partying Playboy Mansion. It’s gross. It’s all so gross.

And yet.

Remembering details of The House Bunny makes me want to rewatch it already, just because I don’t think I can get enough of Anna Faris in this role. Or Kat Dennings! (Lesbian coded until she becomes Lizzie Maguire coded.) Or Shooter McGavin. Or… But it’s also gross in ways that bother me personally, so I struggle to turn off enough to enjoy it. I bet I would love loved it in 2008.

I think it would be fair to say this is a great comedy made by huge talents in an era that was a cultural wasteland for America. I don’t love revisiting my young adulthood’s pop culture, but I’m glad I did for this one specifically.

(illustration credit: me)

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