Bunny and the Bull (2009)

Bunny and the Bull is a deceptive film. Superficially, it looks like a gentle, surreal comedy in the vein of director Paul King's TV work: the quirky set design, including hand-drawn furniture, and the bizarre character and costume designs recall The Mighty Boosh. Actors Edward Hogg and Simon Farnaby even look remarkably like Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt.

Unfortunately, though, scratch that surface and you're looking at a British take on Apatovian bromance movie, complete with uncomfortable grossout scenes and a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl (or the "Because, ummm...? Girl, if you prefer). Described as a "road movie set entirely in a flat", Bunny and the Bull is about Stephen, an agoraphobic who hasn't left his house for nearly a year since something traumatic happened on a tour across Europe with his best friend, Bunny. Hallucinating wildly, Stephen relives the trip - handily for the audience, in chronological order, without much missed out - and, goaded on by an imaginary Bunny, by the end of the movie he manages to come to terms with what happened and move on. This might actually be the first movie about an imaginary/remembered bromance, rather than a current one, but it manages to show just as much disregard for women as human beings as the rest of the genre.

At the beginning of the film, Stephen is rejected by a woman because he's apparently passed into the "friend zone." His depression over this - typical "Nice Guy" angst - provides the impetus for the European jaunt, and the first part of the film takes care to spell out just how diametrically opposed Stephen and Bunny are. In spite of borrowing Noel Fielding's hair, Stephen is a socially inept nerd whose idea of fun is visiting every obscure European museum he can find; Bunny, meanwhile, is frivolous, stupid, addicted to gambling, and a complete womaniser. It's never clear why the two of them would ever spend any time together at all, and they don't really seem to even like one another very much. It's almost a buddy cop movie set-up, except the two of them aren't brought together by circumstance, they're supposed to actually be friends.

Anyway, Stephen and Bunny find themselves in a terrible chain seafood restaurant in Poland, where they meet Eloisa, a beautiful Spanish girl who, it is immediately established, is dating a complete asshole. Well, breaking up with him, anyway. Stephen's Nice Guy instincts kick in and he awkwardly strikes up conversation with her, only to discover that she's intending to head home to Spain. Bunny decides they should give her a lift, so they acquire a car and the three of them set off to have wacky adventures.

Predictably, on the way, despite being Stephen's best friend and knowing full well that he is attracted to Eloisa, despite the whole set-up being his idea with the express purpose of setting Stephen up with Eloisa, Bunny ends up having sex with her himself. (There's an excruciating scene in a bizarre hotel where Bunny hands Stephen his dirty underwear and then embraces him; a scene which only works if you assume a) that penises are inherently funny and b) hugging a naked dude is, like, totally gay and hilarious.) The rest of the film is about the sexual competition between the two men, something that's made explicit when Stephen finally beds Eloisa and she tells him his penis is far nicer than Bunny's, and the catastrophic consequences of letting a woman come between you and your dudebro best friend. Eloisa is barely even a character: she's an exotic foreigner with a sexy accent, weird customs and laughable beliefs who's sexually available to both men, and is eventually given as a prize to Stephen for, um, no reason at all, really. He doesn't even seem to like her very much, but she's beautiful, and he's a Nice Guy, and thus they end up together, because that's the way it works in movies.

Bunny and the Bull is far from the only film to revolve around exactly that idea, but unfortunately it's also chronically unfunny, which is a massive flaw in a comedy film. Virtually every joke is stale; most notably, when dedicated vegan Stephen goes on a rant about how a lucky rabbit's foot wasn't very lucky for the rabbit, which is just a total waste of two minutes, and a cringeworthy scene in which Stephen attempts to confess to Bunny that he has feelings for Eloisa and is so vague about it that Bunny interprets it as a come-on. The only funny moment is Richard Ayoade's brief cameo as a guide in a shoe museum, but even that's an Ayoade performance that you've seen before if you've ever seen him in anything else. Everything else comes off as humourless attempts to replicate the Mighty Boosh, but unfortunately neither Noel Fielding nor Julian Barratt manage to bring any of the charm of the early episodes of that show to the film when they appear. (Barratt's turn as a dog-loving - and I mean loving - tramp is particularly painful.)

The resolution of the film isn't even satisfying: there's nothing there you won't have worked out from the first 20 minutes or so, and Stephen's recovery is brought about by, basically, his decision that Bunny's death wasn't his fault after all. It doesn't really make sense that he'd hole up his flat for almost an entire year and then randomly, one day, decide to hallucinate that Bunny told him it wasn't his fault and immediately get better, but by that point it's difficult to care about anything beyond the overwhelming relief that it's nearly over. The only thing Bunny and the Bull has going for it is its aesthetic, but it's not as imaginative or colourful as The Mighty Boosh, and since you also have to endure 101 minutes of awfulness, it's not even worth it.

IMDB link


Robin Coleman said...

Oh no! I was really looking forward to seeing this film being a big Boosh fan. Did you see this at the Toronto film festival or something as there's very little promotion fro this in the UK.

Damo said...
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Damo said...

Are you *ucking my face? Erm, yeah this movie was a bit slack. With a couple of good one liners. Liked the Boosh guys though, but their bits were OTT