CAPSULE: BUNNY AND THE BULL (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Paul King

FEATURING: Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby, Verónica Echegui

PLOT: An agoraphobic young man remembers (or hallucinates) a trip he took across Europe with his hard-drinking, sexually voracious, gambling-addicted pal Bunny.

Still from Bunny and the Bull (2009)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It’s a mildly surreal comedy that’s in the weird ballpark, but it’s not nearly unhinged enough to make the List on weirdness alone, and too uneven to be counted among the best weird movies ever made.

COMMENTS: Bunny and the Bull begins by introducing us to Stephen Turnbull, an shut-in with severe OCD issues who files his used dental floss and checks the pH of his urine every morning, then shows in flashback how he degenerated from a functioning neurotic to a full-fledged basket case.  An emergency involving rats violating his boxes of hermetically sealed vegetarian lasagna forces him to phone Captain Crab for a takeout meal, unlocking a flood of memories.  The logo on the takeout box inspires Stephen to remember the time he was stood up by a girl he intended to propose to at a Captain Crab.  In the movie’s first anstract sequence, he imagines a restaurant constructed entirely out of painted paper; even the fish swimming in the aquarium are cardboard cutouts.  The motif carries over in the next scene, where an entire horse race is re-enacted with similar animated, spray-painted two-dimensional figures.  These two scenes set up the expectation that the entire movie will carry through this hazy-dream-version-of-a-high-school-play look, but as Stephen and Bunny begin their tour of Europe, subsequent sequences are shot on realistic looking sets, though sometimes employing blurry rear-projection or other random visual trickery.  Then, halfway through the movie the cinematographer pulls out a new look: a world full of gleaming brass CGI clockwork contraptions.  The different visual signatures each look great on their own, but the schizophrenic hopping about from one to another makes you wonder if they switched art directors halfway through film, then ran out of money in the special effects budget.  Bunny‘s visuals are frequently likened to those of The Science of Sleep, but that comparison only holds for the cardboard-cutout scenes; the lack of a consistent look for the whole film diminishes its visual impact.  As a comedy, Bunny is general a pleasant affair, although there’s one grossout digression involving a homeless Russian man who raises dogs as livestock.  But it’s not wall-to-wall belly laughs; the mismatched buddy/love triangle plot doesn’t pay off comedically the way it should.  I suspect your overall reaction to the film depends on how you view the character of Bunny.  The movie asks you to see him as a lovable rogue whose drinking, gambling and womanizing are endearing, but to my mind Simon Farnaby doesn’t bring the character across that way.  We know that Bunny funds the European road trip, but other than that the movie doesn’t give us a tremendous amount of evidence that this girlfriend-stealing, troublemaking, bear-pilfering bloke is a very good friend to Stephen.  Rather, he comes across as an obnoxious, irresponsible lout who hangs out with the timid Stephen because no one else can tolerate his company.  (Bunny’s irresistibilty to women is another puzzling bit of scripting—maybe if he trimmed up that giant mop of blond hair I could see it…)  At any rate, if you can’t bring yourself to see Bunny as a charming chum, the emotional impact of the ending is muted.  Still, Bunny boasts a number of successes, from its visual triumphs (the mechanical bull made of gears and scrap metal with butcher knives for horns) to moments of inspired comedy (a Captain Crab waitress dressed as a lobster, breaking up with her boyfriend in the middle of taking an order).  And there’s scattered imaginative weirdness to keep you watching: the unreal sets, Stephen hallucinating that characters from the flashback appear in his apartment to comment on the story, and the awkwardly creepy and easily-offended Russian dog herder.  Bunny and the Bull didn’t captivate me with its characters, or make up for that deficiency with loads of laughs, but it’s a movie with a lot of imagination and a basically good heart; I can see how others would respond positively.

Writer/director Paul King is best known for the absurd British comedy series “The Mighty Boosh.”  “Boosh” stars Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt appear in Bunny and the Bull in small roles (Barratt as the Russian and Fielding as an “expert” matador).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Director Paul King brings his talent for the surreal to the big screen… worth a watch if you fancy something different and an astounding film to look at.”–Alex Zane, The Sun (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Infinity Starr,” who called the movie “a mixture of the movie Amélie and the TV show ‘The Mighty Boosh’ with a dash of The Science of Sleep” and added “if you do not know what I am talking about in either of my references than that would truly be WEIRD.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

2 thoughts on “CAPSULE: BUNNY AND THE BULL (2009)”

  1. I don’t think this is about a flashback, this came across as a colorful construct of a severely lonely and perhaps schizophrenic young man. He is afraid to leave the house, but he has always been afraid . Bunny is his alter ego, strong, sexual, loud and irrisponcible. When he takes his meds they go away for a little while. His love interest has delusions that he doesn’t question which would support the normalcy of his own delusions. His journey is one of finding strength through different fractured parts of himself.- his Best Friend is the parts of him he wants to be, The GF is acceptance and trust that he can do something important right. The other caractures are minor weird manifestations of himself or issues he has. He realizes he can’t just cut himself off from sick parts of himself or from insecurities. He has to stay the course and let them self destruct and he had to mourn. This movie is anything but a simple artsy fartsy European hipster film, it is a psycholanolists wet dream. If the trip was real then it was a trip through dealing with the pain and feelings of guilt because in the end he begins to throw boxes away and half way through the movie the room begins to lighten up by the end it is totally light. It is like he is finally decomparentalizing all of his obsessive pain and fear.

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