A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this fluffy college-set comedy is supposedly about why it's important to be yourself, it has some iffy messages for the tween and young teen girls who are most likely to want to see it -- chiefly, that women need to doll themselves up to attract the opposite sex. Since main character Shelley is a Playboy bunny, sex in general is a main theme of the movie, even though the only "action" is a couple of kisses. There are constant references to Playboy: The mansion, the magazine, and Hugh Hefner himself all play central roles in the plot. Scenes set in the mansion include scads of barely dressed bunnies wearing revealing lingerie or tiny bikinis, and Shelley does the same even after she leaves (in one scene, the entire length of her nude body is visible from the back). Characters also discuss sex and virginity. One sorority sister is pregnant, but her pregnancy is used like a prop instead of taken seriously. Language includes one "f--k" and many uses of "bitch," and characters drink frequently (though generally not to excess) at both the mansion and college parties.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Shelley (Anna Faris) is an enthusiastic Playboy bunny whose life goal is to become a centerfold. She lives happily in Hugh Hefner's mansion until the day she's kicked out, supposedly for turning 27. Dazed, she ends up wandering the streets of Los Angeles until she stumbles upon Greek row at a local college. The sorority houses look like "miniature Playboy mansions" to her, so she walks into the Zeta house, which is about to lose its charter, and asks to be their house mother. Zeta's "misfit" sisters -- including timid, back-braced Joanne (Rumer Willis); heavily pierced brainiac Mona (Kat Dennings); heavily pregnant Harmony (Katharine McPhee); and dorky-but-beautiful-behind-her-glasses Natalie (Emma Stone) -- can't get anyone to pledge, but the scantily clad Shelley promises to save them by transforming the shy, cerebral clan into sexy, dolled-up hotties.
Is it any good?
Faris is a gifted comedic actress who frequently manages to elicit laughs out of lowbrow material. She's a master at playing sweet-but-stupid sexbots. But in THE HOUSE BUNNY, her innate charm just underscores the movie's disturbing theme -- that young women have to transform themselves into vapid, cleavage-bearing party girls to be happy or fall in love, which is a dangerous message to send young girls. (Everything ends on a "just be yourself" note, but that pales in comparison to 90 minutes of lingerie and bedroom hair.)
One of the reasons that Revenge of the Nerds is such a classic college comedy is that the guys don't change. They prove themselves worthy of popularity (and love) despite being nerds. In this case, the nerdy girls have to dramatically alter their appearance -- courtesy of ridiculously short skirts, three layers of makeup, and water-filled push-up bras -- to catch a guy's attention or appeal to potential pledges. It's sad that two decades after Gilbert, Lewis, and Booger proved that nerds are cool, these girls have to resort to objectifying stereotypes to save their sorority.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Shelley is a good role model. Is her dream of becoming a Playboy centerfold an admirable one? What do the Zeta sisters learn from her? What does she learn from them? What is the movie's message about young women? What does "sisterhood" mean, according to the Zetas? Ultimately, does the movie reinforce stereotypes or undermine them?
- In theaters: August 22, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: December 19, 2008
- Cast: Anna Faris, Colin Hanks, Emma Stone
- Director: Fred Wolf
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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