'The House Bunny' - A 90s Script Locked Away For a Decade?
Filmmaking is hard, brutally so. It's often easy to forget that the film you're watching is an amalgamation of thousands of hours of hard work for a team of hundreds if not thousands. The pre-production process can change drastically too, and offers its own peaks and troughs that are enough to put anyone looking for a job in the industry *cough* off it altogether. Hollywood can be an unnecessarily cruel place. When it comes to writing speculative scripts, writers often pitch ideas simultaneously, casting out a wide net in order to gain traction in any way possible - this sometimes means pitching unfinished ideas that haven't been on your mind as long as you'd like. Even after you've made the sale, sometimes a finished script can sit unproduced on a desk for years and years, gathering dust and putting all that hard work to waste.
The 2008 comedy The House Bunny didn't publically follow this process. The idea was pitched by star Anna Faris (Scary Movie, Lost in Translation) to different production studios until Adam Sandler's 'Happy Madison' picked it up. Watching through it however, the film's substance and heavy use of specific 90s pop-culture references make me continue to wonder whether elements of another script was incorporated into the idea - I tossed and turned all night a little while ago when I rewatched the film with some friends. With this in mind, I went through the film again and screenshotted a number of examples to prove my point - is this a good use of my time? That's debatable, but in this world you've got to stick to your beliefs, and one of mine is the oddity that is The House Bunny.
Quick sidebar, none of this is to say that the screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kristen Smith is in any way bad - the film itself is incredibly harmless and features a charming central performance from the ever-trustworthy Faris, this is all just my own personal conspiracy theory I thought I'd share with you all. It's my blog, leave me alone. Now let's dive in...
First off, the entire premise of the film hinges on Shelley (Faris) aspiring to be a centerfold for Playboy Magazine. This includes a slew of scenes in the Playboy Mansion, saturating the over-the-top lifestyle of the models alongside Hugh Hefner. In 2008, when the film was released, Playboy was still operating of course but its popularity was slipping. The high point of the model/centerfold lifestyle reached its apex across the 90s, with print media still taking reign over the publication industry. There's no mention of any online Playboy material or promotional use of the website at all, in a time where everything was transferring to digital.
Next up, once Shelley makes her way to the Zeta fraternity house at a university, her skimpy outfits and appearance catch the attention of a group of college kids. Notice the use of the phrase 'hizzety-hang' in a COMPLETELY UNIRONIC context. This man is legitimately trying to use it to woo Shelley. This is clearly slang left over from the 80s which has spilled into the 90s zeitgeist and infected the youth. Everyone's health is at danger. Send help.
A bit of pop culture now as Shelley namedrops being hit on by Full House star Bob Saget. Saget's main claims to fame were Full House which ended in 1995 (before the Netflix revival after the film was released) and America's Funniest Home Videos which he left in 1997. He wasn't a household name again until possible How I Met Your Mother in 2005, but even then it's unlikely. What? What do you mean 'this is a stretch'?
In the same scene Emma Stone (yes, that Emma Stone) tries to justify a dinosaur-themed bake sale based on how many people saw Jurassic Park...which was released in 1993. I know it was one of the biggest films of all time but still. Again the argument could be made that Stone's character is supposed to be out of touch and relatively 'nerdy' when it comes to things like this but it's still an odd justification.
This one's difficult to prove because it's not in dialogue or subtitles. But after making an (appropriately) sick burn at Shelley's expense one of the college kids on campus does Johnny Carson's 'HAYOOOOO' catchphrase. You know, the guy who retired in 1992? Either this guy's lying about his age or he's been watching reruns on American television going far into the past. Also if you'd like to let me know how much respect you're losing for me as we go further on feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This one is a little bit of a write-off. A lot of films in the noughties were still doing this, especially teen-comedies that placed emphasis on sex. At a party during karaoke night some random college guys choose to tackle Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back because...they're men. And they like women. Of course they'd want everyone in the bar to know that they're looking exclusively for women. Yo, have you guys also seen American Pie?
At the same bar, when Kat Dennings (again, yes that Kat Dennings) tries hitting on a guy he compares her alternative aesthetic to Hannibal Lecter. Okay, I know the character of Hannibal has been pretty consistently popular (shout out to our lord and saviour Bryan Fuller too) but before 2008 he was arguably most popular with kids these ages thanks to the 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs. Not only is this guy disrespectful of her sweet punk getup, but even his references are weak.
Another tricky one here. Emma Stone treats a photoshoot sexually and namedrops Austin Powers. I'm assuming she's referring to the scene in the first film where he treats his photography work as foreplay - you know, the film from 1997. Even if not, the only other references to photography in Austin Powers would be in the 1999 sequel so we're still in 90s territory even if I'm losing every single one of my friends making this argument.
We've got a double-bill next as Shelley prompts one of the Zeta's (the one in a full back-brace) to run after a hot guy she has a crush on. Of course, her stilted running prompts a blatant parody of 1994's Forrest Gump. Her brace even falls from her body the same way Forrest's wheels do. This could be a nice nod to one of the film's stars however, as Shelley falls for the charming Oliver played by none other than Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks' brother. It's a small, 90s-filled world...
And last but not least...
Towards the end of the film the Zeta girls are attempting to teach Shelley how to appear well-taught and professional. They even mock up a helpful mind-map of conversation topics for her oncoming date. But wait a minute...
If you zoom in just a little bit at their references to pop culture you'll find prompts for the 60s, 70s and 80s but not the 90s...I wonder why that is? Oh, I don't know. Maybe it's just because this film is set in the 90s and what a way to close my argument how would they not even mention anything that had happened in the 90s at all?! It was so culturally rich (the rest of the mind-map is a hoot too if you wanna have a look).
In conclusion then, The House Bunny is a film that tortured me all night. Is it the first sign that the medium of film can time travel? Who knows? All I do know is that I should probably get some sleep and stop harassing hardworking screenwriters and producers on the internet. I hope you got a small amount of joy out of my delusional ramblings, and if you can think of any similar examples of time-travelling films let me know because I'd love more sleepless nights.
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