I can only assume that it's the time of year making me even more forgiving than usual, allowing me to overlook numerous failings and react positively to fluff that I would normally not look twice at. Whatever the reason, be it the time of year or just my own good nature, The Christmas Bunny is yet another movie that I have watched lately, and been pleasantly surprised by.
Let me be clear from the very start. There's a lot here that isn't good. The young girl in the lead role (Sophie Bolen, playing Julia) is one of the weakest elements, and anyone after something very Christmassy will feel a bit short-changed.
Julia is a young girl with problems. Her mother isn't fit to look after her, so she is handed over to a couple (played by Madeline Vail and Colby French) who want to help her start enjoying the rest of her childhood. Julia doesn't talk to people, and sometimes reacts violently to seemingly harmless gestures, like being given a doll as a gift. She starts to open up, however, when a wounded bunny is found and she has the chance to help care for it. Unfortunately, the care of the bunny may be more than her new foster parents can afford, but there might be extra help available in the shape of Betsy Ross (Florence Henderson), an eccentric woman who looks after rabbits in need. As she does her best to keep the bunny safe and on the road to recovery, Julia starts to open up to those around her.
Written and directed by Tom Seidman, this is obviously a movie with good intentions that falls slightly short of its aims. It's more impressive when it laces the snowy sappiness with slightly darker moments (like the flashback showing why Julia ended up in care), but those are few and far between. Okay, I accept that most people wouldn't want a movie called The Christmas Bunny to be unrelentingly bleak from start to finish, but the little bit of grit hints at a better movie that could have been made.
Vail and French both do well, and are allowed to play a couple who almost feel like real people with real problems, certainly compared to many other characters in these types of movies. Henderson is the highlight, as crotchety and blunt as she is also, deep down, kind and lonely. We've seen the type many times before, often due some redemption during the festive season, but she does well in her role. And then there's Bolen, who I won't go on about. It would be unfair to keep picking on a child, despite how bad she is in the lead role.
This is one to watch on a snowy or rainy afternoon, when there's nothing else to occupy your time and you've seen most of the other choices.