A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this tearjerker of a holiday drama deals honestly with the heavy themes of adoption, child neglect, and the frustrations of unemployment. Aside from the emotional weight of the film, the content is very mild, with some religious themes. Viewers who are sensitive to endangered animals might be disturbed by the numerous scenes of injured or neglected bunnies, who have been rescued by a determined caretaker.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Julia (Sophie Bolen) is sent to her third foster home in six months. Her biological mother is a drug addict, and their only bond is a VHS tape of The Velveteen Rabbit, which Julia watches obsessively. She is taken to the Coopers, a family struggling to make ends meet. When they attend a Christmas dinner in the lavish new home of Uncle Chip, the Cooper's son Billy receives a BB gun as a gift; he immediately runs outside with the gun and accidentally-on-purpose shoots a rabbit in the leg. A bond immediately forms between Julia and the rabbit (which she names Rumple, in one of the only times she speaks), and this bond grows as they take Rumple to an eccentric "bunny lady" named Betsy Ross (Florence Henderson) who teaches Julia the responsible care of rabbits. From here, the Coopers must learn to have faith in God and themselves that their luck will improve, and Julia must learn to trust her newest family.
Is it any good?
This touching story manages to stay engaging, if somewhat predictable. In its portrayal of the impermanence of foster children's living situations, of the frustrations and difficulties of the long-term unemployed, and the responsibilities of caring for animals, THE CHRISTMAS BUNNY does not take the easy way out like other "holiday/cute animal" movies might. Each of these issues is dealt with honestly and realistically.
As the eccentric hermit "bunny lady" Betsy Ross, Florence Henderson seems to be having some fun in a very un-Carol Brady role. As the foster child Julia, Sophie Bolen broods and sulks silently from one scene to the next, and while it's easy enough to understand the reasons for her profound withdrawal, one wishes there could be more to latch onto with the character besides a monomaniacal obsession with "The Velveteen Rabbit" and bunnies. That said, tough-skinned kids might enjoy the hint of hope that peeks into Julia's life as the family surrenders to faith and the child slowly learns to trust.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the responsible care of animals. What are the day-to-day chores and responsibilities that go into taking care of a pet? How does the media influence the popularity of certain pets or animals?
How realistic are the economic conditions portrayed in the movie? Kids: How has your family been affected by tough economic times? How can the lack of money or financial security affect a family's day-to-day life?
Which parts of the movie pack the most emotional punch? How do movies convey certain emotions to viewers? Is it the characters, the acting, the music, etc.?
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