Road trippin’ – Bunny and the Bull review

Bunny and the Bull – Starring Edward Hogg, Simon Farnaby and Veronica Echegui. Directed by Paul King. Rated MA. Originally published July 12, 2010. By Simon Miraudo.

 

Television directors seem to have a real difficult time making the transition to film. It’s as if they can only comprehend telling stories in short 20 or 40 minute bursts. And hey, that’s no criticism. Ask anyone who’s watching Mad Men or Breaking Bad at the moment, and they’ll tell you that there is more interesting work being done on the small screen than on the big. An example of some of the awful work being done on the big screen is Michael Patrick King’s recent Sex and the City 2 – indeed, the work of a TV director struggling to make the transition to film (look, a segue). Now, that film had larger problems than its betrayal of its formerly interesting characters and its wholesale dismissal of Muslim culture. Rather, it defied the generally accepted definition of entertainment, stretching out the plot of a 20-minute episode into a two-and-a-half hour slog (it even came with ads).

What is my point? Well, aside from providing another dig at Sex and the City 2, I wanted to stress how unexcited I am for any film directed by a TV veteran, even one as acclaimed as Michael Patrick King, precisely because they are beholden to the televisual format. But, as I recently discovered, there is another King who has emerged from TV land with a solid debut film under their belt. Paul King, director of oddball Brit comedies The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, has delivered a surprisingly well-structured and consistently enjoyable first film with Bunny and the Bull. Hmm, “surprisingly well-structured”. I don’t think I can say the same about the first two paragraphs of this review. I was all over the place. Well, maybe Mighty Boosh fans will think I was simply “crimping”.

The film begins worryingly. Stephen Turnbull (Edward Hogg) is an eccentric agoraphobe who collects his floss and urine, spends all day watching nature documentaries, eats the same vegetarian dish every mealtime, and saves things as unnecessary as straws in countless boxes within his living room. From the get-go, the film dances perilously close to hipster quaintness. I didn’t expect Farnaby to be so sweet, so charming and so convincing as the shy shut-in. Locked in his hideaway for reasons we are not made aware of immediately, he reminisces about a European road-trip he shared with his over-sexed best friend Bunny (a truly funny Simon Farnaby) and Spanish hitchhiker Eloise (Veronica Echegui). Despite his fond recollections, we are led to believe that the trip did not have a happy ending.

Paul King is well-equipped to reconstruct his boundless imagination with a minuscule budget (as we’ve seen many times on Boosh and Darkplace). Here, he proves himself to be a Gondry in the making, recreating Europe in true DIY manner with cardboard boxes, painted backgrounds and the occasional stop-motion creature. Again, it has the potential to descend into overly-cutesy playroom porn (a’la Michel Gondry’s mildly charming but slight The Science of Sleep), yet it never does. In fact, the whole experience is far more mature and melancholy than I expected from The Mighty Booshians (and yes, show regulars Noel Fielding, Julian Barrett, Richard Ayoade and Rich Fulcher all make brief appearances). Overall, Bunny and the Bull is a funny, innovative and touching little comedy that proves – despite all evidence on the contrary – some TV folk are fully capable of making the transition to the big screen. Bunny and the Bull is worth 100 Sex and the City 2’s.

4/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Bunny and the Bull is available on DVD September 15, 2010.

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