CHILDHOOD REVISITED – THE ADVENTURES OF THE AMERICAN RABBIT


Wait-- isn't a march the SAME THING as a rally?

Wait– isn’t a march the SAME THING as a rally?

THE ADVENTURES OF THE AMERICAN RABBIT – (1986)

Director: Nobutaka Nishizawa, Fred Wolf
Starring: Barry Gordon, Laurie O’Brien, Kenneth Mars
Screenplay by: Stewart Moskowitz, Norm Lenzer

Although The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under were the movies I was looking forward to watch for entertainment, The Adventures of the American Rabbit was the movie I was looking forward to watch for analysis. Psuedo-Marxist putdowns and pro-American ideals located in a children’s cartoon movie? Why, this is the “Bert the Turtle” of the 80s!

I couldn’t find too much out there in researching this movie, except for a scathing-yet-endearing review of the DVD. Obscure in every since of the word, American Rabbit came and went, apparently, without so much as leaving a scratch in the national landscape, filmic or otherwise. I was curious to re-explore this film, in order to see exactly how heavy the anti-Communist sentiment was within. What better way to celebrate the 4th!

NOSTALGIC LENS: This movie used to be shown on Cartoon Network (before it became CN and when it used to show cartoons). I remember watching it and being somewhat confused by the content and pacing. It seemed better suited as TV mini-series—the action would start, then stop, then start again. I liked the animation, at least, and even if I didn’t understand the action too much, I still was entertained by it.

DOES IT HOLD UP: This movie is pretty fucking terrible. Like a friend of mine said: “It’s sad. Sad, as in lame.” Truer words.

This movie has everything pretty much going against it, even from the beginning, when it was released in 1986. A Cold War polemic released essentially at the tail end of the Cold War is not going to net you much respect. Then it was dropped from theaters, released on cable TV, thrown on a DVD, and never spoken about again, and for good reason. I can’t even begin to explain all the ways this movie goes wrong; but I’ll definitely try.

First off, we see Rob, our main character, as a baby, being glorified by all the other bunnies in the village. The proud parents are relishing the attention when a total stranger comes up and heaps vague praises on the child. Then he disappears. Moronically concerned, the parents never think much on it. The old creep then returns while Rob’s father watches his son play some disturbing combination of basketball and soccer and, oh, let’s say, Quittich. More obscure praise before he disappears. He returns once more time to heap praise to ANOTHER total stranger before walking away. I’m not going to say that this is pedophile behavior, but this is pretty much pedophile behavior.

Oh, but it pays off! When at a picnic, a boulder magically begins to tumble down, threatening to snuff out Rob’s parents. But Rob, sprinting to the rescue, suddenly changes into THE American Rabbit and saves them! And lo, the creepy old guy returns again, this time in wizard robes (no wizard hat), to explain that Rob is the hero of the legends (that apparently, his dad knew all about).

Watch this revelation scene—it’s hysterical:

Man, when the mother starts crying out of nowhere, I lose it.

But, geez, check out Rob there: the bunny is adorned in the aesthetic of the American flag while sporting roller skates on his feet. Roller skates? Really? I mean, the guy can fly for Christ sake! It’s like the Asian animators (either Japanese or Korean) tried to emulate the American hero with Americanized concepts, but failed. He might as well be playing baseball with a golf club. (Although, this would explain the basketball/soccer mistake.)

Then, the complex and complicated events of a teenager hitting puberty, learning responsibility, and being a superhero, is presented and resolved via a FADE CUT. We don’t have time for such nonsense! America needs saving!

And this is when things go from bad to worse.

Rob manages to procure a job as a pianist at a bar called the Pandamonium, which is, you guest it, run by a panda named Teddy, and the sexiest rabbit on film after Jessica—a pink bunny named Bunnie. He and his crew manage to stand up to a bunch of mob-like jackals demanding “insurance” money; their refusal unleashes a full-scale beatdown of their club on Rob’s opening night with band sensations The White Brothers.

While the band playing on the sinking Titanic was a noble and brave gesture of peace upon chaos, the White Brothers continuous play during the club’s attack is sad, horrifying, and nonsensical. And, as if to add fuel to this fire, they fucking play sad music at the end! Imagine, if you totally blew a job interview, and as you left the building, some douchebag played “Sad Trombone” in your face.

If I had to sum up the general failure of the movie with one idea, it’s this: no one has any visceral reaction to the terrible things that occur, like the scene above. When the American Rabbit saves the town from a collapsing bridge during a protest, no one cares. When Teddy, Bunnie, Rob, and the White Brothers go on tour to the Grand Canyon, and they can’t find the club named “The Trap Door” (REALLY???), they just decide to raft down the river to find it. Are you kidding me? Are they smoking saliva or something? Is this what animals actually believe?

Any credible attempt to be clever is destroyed. The jackals, lead by a buzzard-carrying-fatsuit named Vultor, try to lure Rob’s gorilla friend Ping to fight the American Rabbit. How? Smart use of manipulation? Blackmail? Oh, no. Throw him in a jar of filling water and force him by threat of death. And, considering Ping is a goddamn pussy, he would drown, not because he’s being noble, but because he’s being a goddamn pussy.

The only redeeming moment is when the American Rabbit attacks the fatsuit, only to reveal that the Buzzard himself was actually Vultor. That’s a twist M. Night Shyalaman would be proud of. However, it comes out the expense of some absolutely ridiculous plot moments, including, but not limited to:

1) Kidnapping a chocolate-producing moose because, uh, “whoever controls the chocolate controls the world.”
2) Approaching a random music business run by penguins to “rent out the Statue of Liberty.”
3) Attaching bombs to said statue to get the American Rabbit to back down… AND SUDDENLY, having possession of a doomsday device.

Every so often, the movie tries to be preachy, but even a 2-year-old with Down Syndrome can see through the crap. There’s a scene where Rob tries not to generalize all the jackals as being bad, but since there are no good ones, what’s the point? Especially when coupled with Vultor’s Iron Will speech, it becomes perfectly clear that this movie is just a load of hot, racist (speciest?!) air, the Crash of animated movies, as it were. All jackals aren’t bad; just the ones you meet, know, and come in contact with.

IN A NUTSHELL: This movie needs to be watched, while drunk, with friends if possible. Any attempt to try to understand this abomination will be immediately met with a wall coming to blows against your forehead. When Bunnie makes a CLEAR sexual reference to the American Rabbit, and it goes over his head—well, that scene in itself is the epitome of the entire 86 minutes.

July 13th: The Great Mouse Detective
July 20th: Dick Tracy

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  1. #1 by Al on June 5, 2010 - 12:27 am

    I saw recently this piece of fan art.
    http://www.furaffinity.net/view/3871776/

    Made me revisit the movie and made me want a reboot of the franchise using a more appealing story.

  2. #2 by kjohnson1585 on June 7, 2010 - 1:19 pm

    Might be interesting, Al, I wonder how you’d be able to re-invent the Communism bent, though.

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