In arguably the performance of her life, Florence Henderson (Brady Bunch) stars as an eccentric, rough-around-the-edges farmwoman who nurses bunnies back to health in the movie The Christmas Bunny.
A troubled foster child named Julia has been tossed from home to home, largely because she won’t speak and obsessively watches an old videotape of The Velveteen Rabbit. Her foster families don’t know what to do with her—and Julia’s Mom is a drug addict incapable of caring for her.
Enter a loving but fallen-on-hard-times family that includes an out-of-work engineer for a father, a stay-at-home furniture-painting mom and an adolescent boy who have decided to take on a foster child (doing double duty for additional income and filling a void in the mom’s heart).
The caseworkers place Julia with the family, but the transition isn’t smooth—especially because of Julia’s lack of communication and anti-social behavior.
During the holidays, cousins come over and an uncle gets the boy a BB gun. They run out in the woods and start shooting at birds—and end up injuring a bunny. Julia takes to the bunny and the family rush the animal to the vet.
Barring an expensive operation, the bunny has little chance. However, the vet knows a woman who’s a “Bunny Lady”…a rabbit whisperer, if you will. The family goes to the Bunny Lady’s farm and get a chilly reception, but she agrees to keep it and try to mend it.
Unbeknownst to her family, Julia gets off at a different bus stop (which worries them): it’s at the Bunny Lady’s farm. The Bunny Lady allows Julia to visit every day, and she teaches Julia how to care for the rabbits.
When the bratty boys take the healed bunny and decide to put it in one of their “sleighs” to push down a steep snow hill they made, Julia screams—and bites one of the boys…and then runs away deep into the forest on a bitterly cold evening.
The rest of the movie shows how a family’s love (and a rabbit’s!) breaks through to a sad, mistrustful, lonely little girl—and how a grown man learns humility for the sake of his family and how a bitter widow’s heart softens towards humanity.
The Christmas Bunny isn’t a saccharine holiday tale (despite receiving Five out of Five Doves from the Dove Foundation), and does have a few unsettling moments. Still, it’s a redemptive, well-acted movie likely to elicit more than a few tears, as well as feelings of thankfulness for family and community.
-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)