Did you ever see that show “TV Funhouse”? Not just the SNL sequence with the “Ambiguously Gay Duo.” I’m talking about the full television show that featured foul-mouthed puppets and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. If so, then you get the idea of what this short is, unlike the atrociously questionable “Happytime Murder” “Space Rabbit” works. Used as a seven-minute test scene for a tentative feature film, “Space Rabbit” tells the brief story of Kenolta Lyef (Stephen T Neave) arrested for supposedly assassinating the President of the animal planet these little furballs inhabit. The rest plays like your standard police procedure. You got the good cop, bad cop. The man (or tiger) being questioned is a slouchy, wise guy. The scene suggests that Kenolta appears guilty, but knowing how thrillers go, he’s probably framed. When Kelolta talks back to one of the hot-headed pigs (both literally and figuratively), You can guess where things go.
If you want to judge this short based solely on the predictability of its gag structure, then you’ll have a fun time whining about something you should be enjoying. The execution in the humor is the grand prize winner here. The comedic value rests in the usage of cute puppets doing nasty things. Where vulgarity is used as a lazy crutch in “The Happy Time Murders,” Director Matt Zoller Seitz creates a film that utilizes the standard conventions of a live-action film with puppets without overstepping its bounds. To use an example, when Kenolta is getting beaten within an inch of his life, the picture could have gone into graphic detail, showing pools of blood pouring out of the protagonist for a cheap laugh. Zoller Seitz alternatively chooses to show the good Piggy close the shades on the viewers looking into the interrogation room for a more thoughtful delivery.
There are little attentions to detail I appreciated. DP Daniel Guillaro’s low light usage in the examination room with harsh shadows plays a fun homage to the cop movie aesthetic. The voices reverberate realistically off the walls. The news beat, in the beginning, doesn’t overstay its welcome. Nothing feels like a poorly made green screen shoot that I find in similar videos.
Mature bits of cute animals doing adult things have been used successfully before. Half of Nickelodeon’s early lineup of cartoons from the 90s were chock full of those moments. How that made it to the airwaves for children still delights me. The idea certainly has me intrigued. I’d like to know who this President was, how Kenolta was framed, what sort of chase scenes will be involved if any. My attention is earned. The project’s Kickstarter has long expired, meeting their goal short, but it doesn’t mean that projects are dead. They can always come back. Seeing that “Space Rabbit” is an extension of genres from its 10-minute pitch video, I’d be interested to see how it all plays into a cohesive narrative. If you’d like to watch the film yourself, you can view it linked below.