Two Comedies from Sony Pictures
The House Bunny (January 4/09)
Though it's hard to deny the effectiveness of Anna Faris' energetically go-for-broke performance, The House Bunny's reliance on some of the most eye-rollingly hoary cliches within the romantic-comedy genre proves instrumental in cementing its ultimate downfall. Screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith - the duo behind the thematically-similar yet far superior Legally Blonde - offer up a hackneyed storyline that becomes increasingly tedious as the movie progresses, with the inclusion of a few genuinely hilarious asides and gags periodically alleviating one's growing boredom. Faris stars as Shelley Darlingson, an air-headed Playboy bunny who finds herself forced to fend for herself after Hef (Hugh Hefner, playing himself) throws her out of the mansion. Shelley's infectious enthusiasm eventually lands her a gig as the house mother for the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority, where she quickly gets to work transforming her socially-inept charges into the hottest girls on campus. It's clear almost immediately that The House Bunny benefits substantially from Faris' charismatic, unapologetically goofy work as the central character, as the actress wholeheartedly embraces Shelley's idiocy (ie she believes that a nursing home is a home for nurses) to such an extent that one is initially willing to overlook the decidedly lackluster nature of Lutz and Smith's script. There inevitably does reach a point, however, at which the movie becomes bogged down with oppressively familiar elements, with the egregiously melodramatic bent of the third act - ie multiple fake break-ups - obliterating the mildly positive impact of everything that preceded it.
Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous (February 8/09)
As eye-rollingly silly and predictable as one might've anticipated, Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous casts Jessica Simpson as Megan Valentine - a spoiled movie star who impulsively enlists in the Army after losing all of her money and learning that her boyfriend is gay. Following a few harsh hours of basic training at the hands of her ruthless superior (Vivica A. Fox's Sgt. Morely), however, Megan quickly decides that she wants out - although she inevitably finds herself trapped as a result of contractual obligations. There are few beats within April Blair and Kelly Bowe's screenplay that one can't see coming from miles away, as the pair place a consistent emphasis on hoary cliches and stale jokes (ie while attempting to navigate a perilous obstacle course, Megan exclaims, "somebody call my stunt double!") And yet, though saddled with an almost comically inept performance from Simpson, Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous' undeniably agreeable vibe does ensure that it remains mildly watchable from start to finish - with the unusually strong supporting cast certainly playing an instrumental role in the movie's mild success. In particular, Cheri Oteri - cast as one of Megan's gruff fellow soldiers - effortlessly steals her every scene and provides the movie with its few genuine laughs (and, of course, it's always a pleasure to see Steve Guttenberg back in action). Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous ultimately possesses all the depth and subtlety of a garden-variety sitcom - complete with melodramatic plot developments and groan-worthy punchlines - and it does go without saying that Simpson's cinematic track record remains aggressively unimpressive.