When it comes to animal films around the holidays, they usually involve a dog being given or found by the main family in the story. This film, released in 2010, counters that convention as it tries a different approach: The Christmas Bunny. However, unlike the famous story, this film does not get off to a racing start.
The film was written, directed, produced and stars Tom Seidman, who was a stage manager for The Golden Girls and the 2nd AD for Dead Poets Society. He went on to direct another animal Christmas film, Golden Winter. The biggest name I recognized in the film is Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch) but it also features Madeline Vail, Colby French, Derek Brandon, Andrew Twiford, and introduces Sophie Bolen as Julia Haggen.
The film opens and we get grounded in a bunch of winter scenes and centered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The family’s patriarch, Scott Cooper (French) is seen cross country skiing and is later described as being an avid skier. We then meet his wife Patti (Vail) and their son Billy (Derek Brandon). Some of the first dialogue lets us in on the end of the film as we are shown Scott has lost his job but Patti tells him “the Lord always provides.”
In the midst of his unemployment, the family decides to foster a child. Patti is looking forward to adopting eventually but Scott isn’t convinced that will happen. We witness a strange conversation between the duo that almost infers they decided to foster in part for the money.
The foster care workers bringing Julia are not very nice, and we are introduced to Julia who doesn’t speak or generally acknowledge the existence of the social workers. Patti does her best to welcome Julia but doesn’t seem to get through to her. We then get a flashback of Julia and her mom, who is a drug addict and prostitute. In the flashback, we see the mom hit Julia and Julia takes refuse in a VHS copy of The Velveteen Rabbit someone gave her.
It has to be said here in the review, there are more musical interludes in this film than in an episode of the original Baywatch. The entire dialogue in the film could probably be condensed into about 20-25 minutes, but unfortunately, the film runs for 1 hour and 40 minutes.
A series of scenes follow, filled with stereotypical characters including son Billy (Derek Brandon) being mean to Julia. The family and Julia go to “Uncle Chips” for Christmas Eve and Billy and his cousin are both given BB guns. They end up shooting a fuzzy bunny, breaking its leg. They can’t get a hold of a vet on Christmas Eve, but manage to find one on Christmas Day (Tom Seidman) who says rabbits are too exotic and they should go talk to Betsy Ross (Henderson).
Henderson plays a stereotypical a cooky, angry loner who doesn’t want much to do with anybody. She takes the rabbit and tells them to come back next week. What ensues is what you might expect. Julia, still not talking, sneaks into the barn at Betsy’s property and finds the ultimate bunny oasis with hundreds of bunnies of various ages and sizes. Betsy tells her if she is going to have a rabbit as a pet, she needs to learn more about them. So in full Karate Kid mode, Betsy takes Julia under her wing and starts to show her how to care for the animal.
There are so many musical breaks in the film featuring the cold climate of Michigan that don’t seem to make much sense. Eventually, just as we think Julia is making a breakthrough, the bunny’s real owner emerges wanting it back. Scott pays the mom off so they can keep the rabbit. The two cousins then sneak the rabbit outside and send it down a snow ramp they have built, causing Julia to lash out, bite Billy, and run off into the woods.
A search party begins, with Scott heading off on skis to try and find her. When all hope seems lost, he prays for help from God, and all of a sudden he spots her sitting against a tree and saves her, bringing her home. As if that wasn’t enough, Julia’s mom is severing her parental rights, so they can adopt her. Julia asks the family if she will then be real, echoing The Velveteen Rabbit who says in the story if it is loved, it will become real. Scott accepts a job offer from Chip and we end the film with everybody laughing about the bunny eating its own poop.
If there are kids in your household who like fuzzy bunnies, this movie has plenty of them. This is in contrast to a previous film, A Very Corgi Christmas that had minimal corgis, so at least the film delivered on its title. The acting was so-so, with Florence Henderson convincingly portraying the recluse Betsy. However, the number of musical montages in the film was distracting, and the peppering of faith conversations between Scott and Patti seemed out of place.
In the end, I am not sure what the main theme of the film is supposed to be except that rabbits eat their own poop. The film does contain a lot of accurate information about caring for rabbits, but as a film in and of itself, it would be easy to pass on a second viewing and difficult to recommend to anybody looking for an enjoyable Christmas film with the family.
You can watch The Christmas Bunny for free on TubiTV at https://tubitv.com/movies/508521/the-christmas-bunny.