There can be no situation in which a human — no matter the human’s size or might, wit or wisdom — should feel comfortable in a movie with a rabbit, any rabbit. Because of all the animals to be in a movie with, not a single one of them — not a bear, not a shark, not a whale, not a lion, not a crocodile, not a snake, etc. — is as manipulative, or as deadly, or as villainous, or as unbeatable, or as unstoppable, or as menacing, or as overpowering, or as overwhelming, or as devastating, as a rabbit, any rabbit.
There was an invisible, time-traveling rabbit in 2001’s Donnie Darko. The rabbit was the connecting point for two separate strings of reality, one of which was happening 28 days after the other. In the first string, (1) a plane engine crashed into a house, (2) a school was flooded, (3) there was child pornography, (4) a teenage girl was killed when she was run over by a car, and (5) a teenage boy was killed when he was shot in the eye. The person who shot him was Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), the only person who could see or communicate with the rabbit. Shortly thereafter, Donnie woke up in his room, and it was 28 days earlier and we were in the second string of reality and none of the terrible stuff had yet happened, and so it seemed fine enough. But then the plane engine crashed into the house and, surprise, it was Donnie’s house and Donnie’s room and so he was killed instantly, squished to death.
There was an invisible, time-stopping rabbit in 1950’s Harvey, and though the general tone of that movie is far less unsettling than Donnie Darko, two things should be pointed out:
First, the rabbit (“Harvey,” as it were) was somewhere between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-8 tall, and he walked on his hind legs, and he spoke English, and there is simply no way to categorize a rabbit as big as LeBron James as anything other than “horrifying.”
Second, while Harvey certainly was not as openly destructive as most other movie rabbits, he certainly was not not destructive. The two best examples are Veta, the woman who was mistakenly locked into a sanitarium for admitting that she occasionally saw Harvey, and Dr. William Chumley, head of the sanitarium, who almost certainly lost his job once he began to accept that Harvey was real and could control time. Both of those people were in a movie with a rabbit and their lives were ruined, proving that even those who align themselves with rabbits are destined for doom.
(Another good example of this style of destruction would be what nearly befell Michael Jordan in 1996’s Space Jam. Bugs Bunny talked him into playing a basketball game against aliens, and it seemed like a harmless and charming thing, but by the time they got around to actually playing it, the stakes were incredible: If Michael Jordan’s team lost, he had to become a slave [!!!!!!!!!!!]. That’s really what it was, and perhaps I’m just forgetting about it, but I don’t think enough was made at the time about the slavery angle. There was a writers’ room discussion sometime before the movie was made where someone was like, “What should happen if the Looney Tunes lose the game?” and someone else was like, “I got it: Michael Jordan becomes a slave,” and then a producer was like, “There it is! Here’s $80,000,000. Go make a movie.”)
There was a regular-looking bunny in 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail that guarded a cave and several of the knights who tried to enter the cave died, and one of them even had his head sliced off with a single rabbit bite, and, admittedly, that sounds improbable or unbelievable, but that’s what I’m trying to tell you: The feats and activities of rabbits in movies are both improbable and unbelievable. Look:
In 1987’s Fatal Attraction, Glenn Close played a scorned lover named Alex Forrest and Michael Douglas played a business suit with hair named Dan Gallagher. Alex, frustrated with having been ignored, tried to get Dan to pay attention to her by stealing his daughter’s rabbit out of its pen and then boiling it alive while no one is home. The rabbit died, and so there is the opportunity here for you to think Alex was one of the few characters who came across a rabbit in a movie and bested it. That’d be a short-sighted view, though, because by the end of the movie Alex was also dead, floating in a bathtub after having been shot in the chest.
Even the most dim-witted of movie rabbits (Roger Rabbit from 1998’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit) was too smart, too cunning, and too irrepressible to be outsmarted. As proof, here is a clip of the person who tried to frame him for murder getting run over by a steamroller and then melted with acid:
(This feels like a good time to mention that despite all the murder and sex that is implied or happens in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it’s still rated PG. Part of the definition listed for PG is: “May contain some material parents might not like for their young children,” which is incredible when you think about how there’s no way to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit without at least one time thinking, “Wait, so humans and cartoons are fucking and murdering each other in this movie universe?”)
How about this: There was a rabbit in 1997’s Con Air. It wasn’t a real rabbit, or a cartoon rabbit, or even an invisible rabbit with a curious ability to manipulate time. It was a stuffed one. Soon-to-be-released prisoner Cameron Poe (Nic Cage) had purchased it from the prison store (??) and was intending to give it to his daughter as a birthday gift upon being released from prison. Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), who coordinated and executed a coup to hijack a prison plane, found it in the belly of the plane and used it as proof that he’d finally figured out who it was that had been sabotaging his plan. After finding it, he held it up and threatened to shoot it in front of Poe:
Twenty minutes later, Grissom had been thrown from a moving fire truck, smashed through two windows, briefly electrocuted by power lines, and then had his skull crushed by a rock smasher. The bunny, dirty but not shot, made its way into Poe’s daughter’s hands.
This certainly isn’t all the times that a rabbit has appeared in a movie with humans, but it’s enough to prove the point: They are bad.
Peter Rabbit opens wide Friday. Tragedy will follow.