The fine folks at Wikipedia report that Bette Davis sued the producers of this offbeat comedy because editing changes transformed what Davis had been promised would be grown-up satire into silly slapstick. And while it’s heartening to see that Davis was still her usual combative self even well into the twilight of her career, the question underlying this factoid is why Davis—or anyone, for that matter—could ever have envisioned Bunny O’Hare as grown-up fare, satirical or otherwise. A juvenile predicated on coincidence and contrivance, the film is marred by pervasively nonsensical plotting. The opening scene tells the tale. Bunny O’Hare (Davis) is a dippy widow who flies into a panic when workers show up to demolish her home after she’s defaulted on bank payments. She inexplicably asks a workman named Bill (Ernest Borgnine) to protect her house even though he’s just there to salvage plumbing items for resale. Then Bunny phones her adult children for help, but the kids are too self-involved to recognize that Mom’s in a jam. Next, after Bill fails to protect Bunny’s house (which wasn’t his responsibility in the first place), he succumbs to guilt and offers Bunny a ride. Huh? A series of unlikely situations ensues, during which Bunny discovers that Bill is actually a bank robber wanted by the police, so Bunny blackmails Bill into helping her rob the financial institution that she feels treated her shabbily.
Bunny O’Hare is a deeply confused movie. For instance, the filmmakers can’t decide if Bunny is competent or helpless. Nor can they decide if the antagonist is a bank, the cops, or Bunny’s children. Yet the myriad story problems aren’t the worst aspects of this dreadful movie. The central visual gimmick involves Borgnine and Davis masquerading as hippies, so viewers are subjected to the surreal sight of bearish Borgnine and tiny Davis decked out in Day-Glo polyester while they hurtle down city streets on a motorcycle. Proving that Davis was at least correct to complain about the film’s editing, the flick is cut and scored with the frenetic, broad-as-a-barn storytelling style of a Jerry Lewis movie. Plus, many getaway scenes feature out-of-place banjo music, as if the picture aspires to be a cousin to Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Davis strives to retain her dignity and plays certain scenes well, but her crisp line deliveries clash badly with Borgnine’s boisterous energy. Costar Jack Cassidy, as the vain cop obsessed with catching the “hippie bandits,” delivers a tiresome caricature in lieu of a performance, while funnyman John Astin, playing one of Bunny’s kids, fares slightly better.
Bunny O’Hare: LAME