Readers of this blog well know that I'm a devoted supporter of Anna Faris. Even in her lesser films (the Scary Movies, Smiley Face, Waiting...) she's still a doll, and in supporting roles she often overtakes top billing (Just Friends, My Super Ex-Girlfriend).
So, Obama...? McCain... ? Whatever. In 2008, I've had Faris on the mind. The House Bunny is her first mainstream vehicle and unlike most of this year's summer films, Faris defies the dog days of hype and - with the help of screenwriters Kirsten Smith and Karen Lutz - lifts The House Bunny up alongside You Don't Mess With The Zohan and Swing Vote as another winning social comedy that offers sweet sanctuary from the stupidity of the comic book movie onslaught.
Before The House Bunny began its run it had already had an impact on our culture. Busy parents passed by posters and TV teasers of this PG-13 comedy that had a Playboy bunny at its center. In times where Bratz are the new Barbie this probably wasn't much of a shock, but I'm sure hesitancy still reared its head when teen daughters asked mother & father to go see it. Brilliantly, however, The House Bunny plays off that always-be-sexy mentality and teaches young women a human lesson more useful than a tale of four girls that wear the same pair of pants.
In the end, sexy is nerdy and nerdy is sexy. Most importantly: you don't need to be an intellectual to live a significant life.
Faris' creation of Shelly subverts the dumb blond stereotype in two key instances where onlookers correct her vocabulary. In the first, one of Shelly's house girls (Kat Dennings) scoffs at her for saying "it feels like my heart is falling out of my brain" and in the second, a fellow house mother (Beverly D'Angelo) mocks Shelly for using the word "meteor" to describe a "metaphor". But in both moments - kind of like when Stan stops an episode of South Park to deliver the show's moral - Shelly calmly pacifies the attacker (and us, the giggly audience) by sensibly explaining her eccentric choice of words.
What's special about The House Bunny - headlighted by the heady and hilarious performance of Emma Stone as Natalie - is the middle ground that it takes on the winners of the college female playground. The film champions both the value of muted recluses and the flashiness of a sharply dressed top-to-bottom sorority girl. (The House Bunny achieves a feminism that Catherine Breillat is still looking for.)
It's telling that this type of social unity comes of as shocking nowadays. Critics pretend that they want this, but they don't. The often scoff at it, as when Peter Travers recently trashed Swing Vote for "not having the balls to choose sides". What a moron.
So what will Anna Faris do next? With Reese Witherspoon off losing too much weight, following Jake Gyllenahaal around, and squandering the promise she showed in comedies such as Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blond (also written by Smith and Lutz), Faris has been launched into her comedic leading shoes. She's only thirty-one and already knows the business. I say build that empire, Anna, build it!