Bunny And The Bull

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

The first thing to note about Bunny And The Bull, the cinematic debut of Mighty Boosh director Paul King, is that it’s not Mighty Boosh: The Movie. But it certainly bodes well for that project, assuming King once again takes the helm.

Noel Fielding, Richard Ayoade and especially Julian Barrett all make amusing cameos here, but this is Edward Hogg and Simon Farnaby’s film, the pair fine comic foils as mismatched friends. Although it amounts to rather less than the sum of its ragtag parts, King has stitched together a perfectly watchable tapestry of surreal comedy, handicraft and animation, recalling the dream-like aesthetics of Terry Gilliam and Spike Jonze while constantly evoking warm memories of Oliver Postgate (responsible for such children’s classics as Bagpuss and the Clangers), the early lethal dispatch of a horse notwithstanding.

Another clear influence is Bruce Robinson’s Withnail & I, with the wan Stephen Turnbull (Hogg) reprising the put-upon I role and Bunny (Farnaby) as a rather more blokeish, horny, but every bit as self-centred Withnail.

Crucially though, this is a road movie that never leaves Stephen’s painstakingly ordered London flat. A timid agoraphobic locked in a routine of frozen lasagne and Ray Mears television marathons, who carefully piles up pots of urine, it’s obvious that he’s been traumatised. When his regimentally ordered habits are disrupted, his replacement dinner and surrounding souvenirs transport him back to an ill-fated European trip he took with Bunny.

In reminisce, they blaze a trail through such cultural lowlights as The German Museum of Cutlery and the National Shoe Museum of Poland, where their guide turns out to be Ayoade at his most blank and robotic. The itinerary becomes too much for Bunny, who feels his companion, still pining for a girl who ignored him for three years, requires less edifying distraction.

Soon, they’re picking up unhinged Spanish waitress Eloisa (Verónica Echegui), stealing a stuffed bear and gambling with a disturbed Eastern European tramp (Barratt), who suspects Stephen of flirting with his dogs. Fielding turns up at a fiesta in Spain as a ‘retarded’ matador, a legend in his own bar and with a confused toreador philosophy. Unfortunately, Bunny’s macho desire to fight a bull, plus a love triangle involving Eloisa, leads to repercussions that sends them fleeing into the night.

The semi-animated sequences with paper falling like snow, a fairground comprised of clock parts and a bull made from cutlery afford a twee charm and muted counterpart to the lunatic Booshiverse, establishing a compelling incongruity between the film’s arty look and Bunny’s base behaviour.

Hogg is really good as the pale, vulnerable Stephen, unable to take the bull by the horn with women. But it’s Farnaby, as the roistering, gambling Bunny, who will benefit most from this film. Always memorable as a lurking oddity in his supporting roles, here he’s utterly deplorable yet roguishly lovable, a dirty, shaggy-haired lug with a Falstaffian swagger in his commitment to his appetites.

This is an endearing tale of friendship through good times and bad with enough laugh-out loud moments to never feel pretentious.

Review by Jay Richardson

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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