"entertaining and extremely inventive comedy which features some excellent performances from its cast and an absolutely stunning visual style"

Bunny and the Bull is an entertaining and extremely inventive comedy which features some excellent performances from its cast and an absolutely stunning visual style sure to be the breakout film from Mighty Boosh director Paul King.

Stephen (Edward Hogg) is living the life of a shut in.  Obsessively filing boxes of everything from last year’s combs, to milk bottles of his own urine, he hasn’t been out of his flat in ages.  When his routine is disrupted, he tries to leave the house but to no avail and starts to reminisce on the road trip he had with his heavy-drinking and gambling-obsessed friend Bunny (Simon Farnaby). 

This takes us on a trip through Europe where they meet a foul-mouthed Spanish waitress called Eloisa (a wonderful Veronica Echegui looking not unlike Penelope Cruz).  The road trip is set inside Stephen’s mind where some extremely clever set design and stop motion animation are used to open the gateways to his memories.

So a Captain Crab Happy Meal box becomes the setting for a cafe conversation, snow globes become real snow-swept mountain tops and a mechanical clock becomes a rusty old fashioned carnival ride.   It’s a fantastic way to show how his memories have been shaped by the things around him and it’s a playful and inventive reconstruction which sparkles with creativity and originality.

It’s a familiar buddy set up which sees the reclusive and shy Stephen dragged along through all kinds of ridiculous scenarios at the behest of his boisterous friend, who will seem to do anything for a dare (eating a plateful of crabs, swimming across a frozen lake and fighting the titular bull).  Simon Farnaby and Ed Hogg bounce off each other really well, Hogg in particular is excellent at bringing Stephen’s neuroses to life; he’s shy and fragile without ever being mopey or irritating.  It’s their chemistry which makes Bunny and Stephen’s uneven relationship believable but it’s by no means consistent – there are attempts at comedy which fall a bit wide of the mark.

The film is let down in part by the very theatrical landscape that it’s created - all too often it feels like a play and the stiltedness of dialogue in some key scenes is off putting.  This is particularly evident with Veronica Echegui’s character, where some of her hearts to hearts with Stephen seem misjudged and her comedy mistranslations hit and miss.  That’s not to say it doesn’t work at least some of the time, “I hope your mother explodes with a terrible period” is not only a hilarious line but one apparently adlibbed by Echegui herself.

It seems a shame that the film is likely to be billed as “The Mighty Boosh film” because that’s something it most certainly isn’t.  Director Paul King has capitalised on some of the techniques used in the TV series, but the visual style is much more story-led and not just weird for weird’s sake.  It’s hard to feel a little bit disappointed that the script doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the utterly stunning set design – something that takes a real creative vision to pull off, so hopefully we can see more similarly ambitious projects from Paul King in the future.