Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

THE CHRISTMAS BUNNY

Take it from a pseudo-expert, Netflix just doesn’t have as many Christmas movies as you’re going to want. Okay, yes, these movies are going to be all over television in the next couple of days anyway, but some of us want to watch Miracle on 34th Street at 2 a.m. While I was going through its selection though, there was one movie that caught my eye; The Christmas Bunny.

Yeah, the movie you’re imagining in your head based on that picture? Adorable little bunny, maybe saving Christmas, getting into lil’ adventures? That is not what The Christmas Bunny is. This is not a fun kids Christmas movie, this is the confused offspring of a grim Lifetime movie that got drunk and had sex with a pet care instructional video. You’ve got kids acting, animals acting and misguided attempts at symbolism and heart-warming messages. It’s as horrifying a shitstorm as anything raging outside your window this year. So this Christmas Eve, thank God it’s me instead of you as I take you through The Christmas Bunny.


The movie opens with two social workers driving a girl to a foster home. They discuss how the mother paints furniture (not a real hobby surely) and the dad is unemployed but likes cross-country skiing. Why are they even talking about these peoples hobbies? Julia is the girl in the back, she clutches a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit tightly and is one of the saddest looking kids I’ve ever seen in a movie. Precious looks like a real ray of sunshine next to this moper. We’re then introduced to the mother and father who will be taking Julia in, Patti and Scott Cooper. Patti is stressing about the house being nice enough for when the social workers come, as if the paperwork hadn’t already been done and they could just be like “oh you haven’t vacuumed in the last 15 minutes, deals off, guess we’ll just send this kid off to become mincemeat”. The dad, in contrast, clearly could not give a fuck and is only agreeing to this for the money that comes with fostering a child. Just keep that in mind when this scumbag saves the day at the end of the movie.

They show up at the family home. Julia isn’t taking because she is traumatised (CHRISTMAS, YAY!) and the woman social worker gets weirdly mad about it. She tells Patti not to coddle her and basically acts like the kid is making a show of her. I’d like to see her credentials because between this and the dad’s money making scheme I’m starting to wonder if Julia wasn’t just kidnapped by criminals. The grown-ups sit down and we go through a cornucopia of discussion that doesn’t belong in a movie whose poster has a rabbit covered in fairy lights. Patti talks about how she wanted more kids but had “internal trouble”. The social worker describes Julia’s mother getting into trouble because of drug abuse, solicitation and negligence. Just when things couldn’t get any more grim, Billy, the family’s own child shows up.

This.

Little.

Shit.

This punk. He’s a Naughty List unto himself. He’s Jake Lloyd in Jingle All The Way and Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone all wrapped up into one and topped off with a Bieber haircut. He yells at his mother off camera that he punched another child and comes sliding into the room on their rug, demanding hot chocolate. He sarcastically greets the social workers and harasses Julia. He's the most obnoxious thing I have ever seen. No wonder they’re looking for a new child, they probably want to kick this one out on the curb and leave him to die. Just thinking about it ruins my Christmas spirit. I want to punch a reindeer in the face.

All this happens on December 23rd by the way, which is total bullshit. Not a hope a child is being introduced to her foster family so close to Christmas. The dad is looking up jobs online. I mean, if they didn’t celebrate Christmas it would make total sense but not only is their house decorated, but they’re religious too! There’s a runner through the movie with Patti talking about the Lord providing while the dad rolls his eyes. They must have got their shopping finished back in May.

Next comes easily the most amazing scene in the movie. Julia has a flashback, which is shown entirely from her point of view. She’s in a motel watching The Velveteen Rabbit while her mother is at the door, telling some sleazebag that he can’t come in yet because “the brat is still awake” and asking him to go get “the stuff”, which is definitely how people who use drugs refer to drugs. The mother walks right over to her and SLAPS HER IN THE FACE. I know I’m harping on about this but remember how the cover for this movie looked like this.

While the mother passes out, there is a bizarre dissonance as the guy from earlier absolutely hammers on the door like he’s Jack fucking Torrance yet has a totally monotone voice while he says “Come on. Open up. Do not play games with me.” Jesus Christ.

So after that traumatising horror the family goes to see Uncle Chip and family for Christmas Eve. Scott’s seething resentment could not be more obvious because this dude is rolling in it. Everybody gives out presents. Shitheel boy and his cousin are given BB guns because the dad thinks they’re ready (they will in very short order prove him entirely wrong) and Julia is given an extremely expensive and extremely creepy doll which she clearly doesn’t care for. Perhaps because it’s so caked in make-up it reminded her of her prostitute mother. That might seem like an outlandish joke but she literally slaps the doll in the face. Dear Foster Dad whines to Chip about how he can't compete with that. I’m not sure how he was approved for fostering as he behaves like a moping 15 year old. He storms off in a huff and everything. I’m not sure who Chip is supposed to be related to actually, he refers to both Patti and Scott as “sis” and “bro” respectively at different points and I would not like to think much more about that right now thank you very much.

So those BB guns the boys were ready for? They use them to shoot the Christmas Bunny almost straight away. They decided to take it off to the vet the next day, especially because Julia is clearly taken with it. She says “you came back” to it for reasons I cannot fathom other than the fact that this poor child is clearly very troubled and does not belong in a family film. The parents have struggled to get her to listen to them and are clearly delighted to have found leverage over her, because they spend the rest of the movie being like “if you don’t put your pyjamas on we’ll take the rabbit away!” Especially the dad. I cannot stress enough how terrible these people are. The vet, who I’m assuming is admirably hiding his rage at having to come in on Christmas day, wants to put it down and says that they don’t get a lot of rabbits because they are “an exotic animal” (!?) Clearly wanting to go home early because it’s Christmas Bloody Day, he recommends they take the rabbit to old Betsy Ross, “the Bunny Lady” an eccentric local rabbit expert. So, rabbits are exotic animals but there’s a local old lady who knows everything about them? I think this guy’s just been hitting the eggnog too hard. Julia speaks for the first time in the movie to say that the rabbit’s name is Rumple. I do not care.

The Bunny Lady bitches them out for their terrible rabbit care, but agrees to look after the rabbit after taking some money. Specifically money from Julia. She hasn’t been through enough yet, she has to have her last penny taken from her by a crazy old lady. She tells Julia to come back in three days for Rumple. Now, even though this movie has ‘Christmas’ in the title, Christmas is over and done with within the first half hour. The kids are back in school before we even see the rabbit again. The plot doesn’t really have anything to do with Christmas at all. I realise that doesn’t look as egregious when compared to the fact that this is a family film where a kid gets beaten, but it’s still weird.

Julia is unwilling to wait before she sees Rumple again and instead of getting off the school bus at her foster home, walks to the Bunny Lady’s place, which she essentially breaks into. The place is filled with animals and yes some of them are rabbits but there’s just as many goats so I’m not really sure why she’s specifically called the Bunny Lady. There are probably some nefarious rumours about her in the town. Anyway, she catches Julia and so begins this movies undesired transformation into an infomercial on proper rabbit care. Rumple’s previous owner (man I can’t wait til he shows up) used to feed it candy, which Bunny Lady does not approve of. They work out a deal where Julia will come by every day after school to learn how to look after it. Scott, the dad, is unsure of this Bunny Lady arrangement so the mother agrees to go check it out next time. Bunny Lady reels off a lot of information about rabbit dietary habits and balks at the Patti’s mentioning of pellets, calling them “just another way for the feed companies to rob you blind!” I’m not sure how a feed company selling food counts as them robbing anybody, it seems pretty up front and straightforward. She also says rabbits eat their own droppings, or “poopsicles”. It occurs to me that other people spend Christmas Eve with loved ones while I sit alone, typing a few thousand words about child abuse and rabbit shit…
….anyway, what follows is basically a classic movie training montage, but with pets. Bunny Lady introduces Julia to two of her favourite rabbits. Firstly, Old Fred, who she claims is 18 years old. Bunny Lady is either losing it or is a complete liar, because there is no way a rabbit is living to 18. Not unless it’s selling its soul to the Rabbit Devil. Second is Gabby, whose negligent former owners dropped off with both her legs broken. 3 years ago. She mockingly says they expected her to put it down but really that seems like the humane choice, doesn’t it? That’s not just me? I’m starting to think maybe they call her the Bunny Lady because she’s their cruel goddess of death. She tells Julia a story about climbing a tree when she got lost in the woods as a kid, it goes on for a while but it couldn’t be more obvious that Julia will get lost in the same woods later so it’s worth mentioning now. Bunny Lady mentions how her dad “whooped her good” in response to her getting lost, keeping up the movie’s most prominent themes.

Patti gets a little backstory on the Bunny Lady from the vet. Her daughter used to help her with the animals but they got into a big fight so now she lives alone. I didn’t say it was an interesting backstory. The vet says he doesn’t think that makes her dangerous, which wasn’t really what she was asking so it seems like he’s protesting too much. I mean, if she can torture a lame rabbit by keeping it alive who knows what she’s capable of?

So after a conversation between the parents where Scott mentions he had a job interview which he thinks went okay (so according to movie law he will definitely find out later that it did not go okay.) they get a call from the social worker saying Julia’s mother wants to see her. Oh boy, slaps in the face for all, it’s a Christmas miracle. Doesn’t really amount to much though because in the very next scene, she fails to show. Man those drug addicts are almost as terrible as those damned feed companies. Patti tries to let Julia down easy by saying her mom got caught up in a work thing but it doesn’t work. It’s not exactly much solace when your mother is a prostitute. Julia is so upset she misses a birthday party Bunny Lady was throwing for Old Fred, but when you’re an adult throwing birthdays for a pet rabbit your life is already a constant disappointment. Evidently she takes it personally though, because she drops Rumple off at the family’s house and doesn’t instruct Julia anymore.

 During another visit from their (possibly incestuous?) relatives, shitheel son and cousin decide to put the rabbit in a pram and push it down a ramp they made out of snow. Julia responds to their attempt at rabbit violence (their second of the movie mind you) by beating up and biting the cousin. It’s…pretty great. She makes that sucker bleed. I know it seems crazy but there the ones who tried to injure an animal, classic sign of a psychopathy. Scott is already on edge having shockingly not gotten the job from earlier, and with this he gets into a huge fight with his wife about getting rid of the rabbit. Julia takes Rumple and runs away, into the woods. In the middle of winter. Honestly she deserves to die. A search party is arranged and the dad, finally feeling guilty about having been a moody dick the entire movie (or perhaps just worried about losing his benefit payment meal ticket) digs out his skis to go looking for her. Meanwhile, the social worker visits Patti to tell her Julia’s mother’s been done for drug dealing and has given up her parental rights. For some reason he does not follow this up with “not that it matters to you, you won’t be allowed to adopt Julia seeing as you fucking lost her. You had one job foster family! You blew it! Good day!”

Scott, desperate to find Julia before she freezes, prays to God to finally help him out for once. Bunny Lady shows up to tell them that she’s probably at the tree she mentioned earlier. She has a solid basis to believe this, I mean it’s a movie why else would she have brought it up before? Scott finds Rumple and Julia safe by the tree, takes them back, gets a job working for brother and/or brother-in-law Chip and agrees to keep the rabbit. So after this natural climax the movie is over, right?

HO HO NOOOOO.

You wouldn’t think the stakes could be raised higher than a child maybe freezing to death but you’d be wrong because the original owners are back for Rumple! A very posh lady and her son show up and the son…he’s a little off. I mean, there’s spoiled movie kids and there’s weird movie kids, but he’s just picking stuff up off the Cooper’s mantle and dropping them on the ground. His mother says he has a very high IQ, give me a break lady…

Apparently things weren’t working out with the rabbit so this kid’s father released it into the wild. A domesticated rabbit. I see where this kid gets it from. The kid never paid attention to the rabbit except to feed it candy but now demands it back. Julia refuses and flusters this kid into terrified submission via her superior knowledge of rabbit trivia. Sure the movie is running a little long but the antagonist is vanquished by shouting “THEY EAT THEIR POOP” at him so I don’t mind because this movie is amazing. Bunny Lady hires Julia as an assistant, the Cooper’s adopt Julia and Rumple and Julia asks “am I real now?” Ah, you see, she thought she was just like the Velveteen Rabbit! Do you get it?? I guess this is supposed to be heartwarming but it just demonstrates that this child clearly still has a lot of psychological damage that will take years to rem-oh never mind the rabbit pooped on the floor, everybody laughs, credits.


So that’s The Christmas Bunny. A movie that did not have nearly enough Christmas in it. Or bunnies really, it's not like Rumple really did anything. If you’d care to learn more (and you read this far you clearly care more than you should) it has its own website with lots of detail, including lots of info on both rabbit and foster care, neither of which should be within its purview. Check it out here: http://www.thechristmasbunny.com/ Hoping you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written this year and have a good holiday season. I am going to cleanse myself by watching some much earned Die Hard.

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