Now I know we’re not meant to judge a book by its cover, but DVD cases are fair game. Looking at the cover for The Christmas Bunny, it’s no promising sight. The tagline (“everybunny needs some bunny to love”) and the jingle-bell clad rabbit (who by the way is not even the rabbit they used in the film- is this Beijing 2008 playing over again?) don’t leave much to the imagination. What, so some rabbit can talk, and he finds love, because Christmas? I scoffed, as I pressed play. I was so prepared for a feast of mockery and japes.
But I was wrong. I felt fully unprepared for the raw emotional journey I was taken on. And I’m not even kidding here. I know this is a blog for relentlessly prodding at seasonal movies, but I cannot prod this one. I think it broke me. Sure, the last half an hour feels pretty rushed, but the overall plot is so surprisingly…it’s good! The story focuses upon young girl Julia, who comes from a broken home to live with temporary foster parents for Christmas. Her past is only touched upon briefly in one flashback, but its effectively shot sequence resonates through Julia’s actions later in the film. Damn, it’s clever!
Granted, the film isn’t very seasonal. We spend the first forty minutes or so in the festive spirit but it’s not that important. Take Christmas Day for example: they take a sick rabbit to the vets. Holidays are coming! We also meet Bunny Lady- no, she isn’t a weird Santa equivalent. This is for the best, as she actually brings characteristics which help to further the relationships between Julia, her rabbit Rumple, and her would-be foster parents. Christmas has as much a presence as the Christian beliefs of the foster parents: it’s there, but never used to point out “good” and “bad” characters. Nor are either used as the solution to all of the film’s problems. If anything, foster father Scott’s moment of prayer, when he is truly at a point of desperation, just served to prove how effectively the script had been written. I watched it and thought to myself, “bloody hell, this is a real film! It’s of actual value!”
The child protagonist isn’t sassy and obnoxious, either: just when I thought the film couldn’t get any less seasonal movie! Julia (Sophie Bolen) is a mostly mute character, which is genius. In the swing of Victorian morals, children should be seen and not heard, especially if they’re going to be wooden as hell. Bolen’s understated portrayal of Julia causes you to genuinely care for her welfare.
The only downfall for Christmas Bunny is probably its complete lack of target audience. Children won’t find it too gripping, and anyone over the age of twelve isn’t going near a title like that with a barge pole. To that latter group, I say: ignore that gut feeling! It’s actually good! Seriously, that’s the main point of this review. That and the masses of rabbits in this film. The rabbits are all adorable. One of them’s really small and- look, just watch it.
Rating: Ho Ho/Ho Ho Ho.