Who would've ever thought an anemic Looney Tunes holiday special would have anything in common with Robert Altman's The Player? Judge Bryan Pope, that's who.
The all-new Looney Tunes holiday classic!
Warner Bros. continues to keep its tired stable of Looney Tunes' characters on life support with this variation on the holiday chestnut, A Christmas Carol. Daffy Duck, the greedy owner of the Lucky Duck Superstore, is a lisping quackpot who's as mean as the Dickens to his harried staff, including Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd and Speedy Gonzales. He cuts their wages, doesn't provide health insurance, and demands that they show up for work at 5 o'clock Christmas morning. But before he can spread tidings of gloom, he's visited by three ghosts…eh, you know the rest.
I'll be frank. Bah, Hum Duck! A Looney Tunes Christmas disappointed me. Worse, it bored me.
The casting is kind of inventive (who would have ever thought of Taz as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?) and the wall-to-wall action is suitably silly (Daffy gets squashed by an automatic door, Granny wallops everything in sight with her umbrella), but why don't the backdrops have the same sharp angles and abstract constructions as the classic shorts? Gordon Goodwin's orchestrations are fine, but where is the late Carl Stalling's perfect score? Where is the magic that once poured forth so effortlessly from the crazy folks at Termite Terrace? Not here, folks. It was made by people who just don't get it, and it shows. Bah, Humduck! looks and feels…ordinary.
The main problem with Bah, Humduck! is simple: the characters are slave to a story with too much plot, and it inhibits them. Warner Bros.' best shorts always started with a germ of an idea and used it as a coat rack on which to hang deliriously stupid, achingly funny gags. Here, the characters are at the mercy of a story we've heard a hundred times before, leaving no time for their patented anarchy like dressing in drag, giving Gossamer a manicure, or arguing over whether it's duck season or rabbit season. At an interminable 46 minutes, the program overstays its welcome.
Even as a retread of the familiar Christmas story, Bah, Humduck! falls flat. The pacing is all wrong (I panicked when the 25-minute mark rolled around without a sign of the Ghost of Christmas Past), and Dicken's themes of regret, redemption and our responsibility to our fellow man don't mesh with these wascally 'toons in the same way they did with, say, the Muppets. And watching Daffy Duck turn earnest in the last five minutes is almost painful.
Speaking of Gossamer (which I did, two paragraphs back—please pay attention), the fluffy red sweetheart makes a cameo here, and it's one of the program's few small joys. He's not the only unsung favorite to pop up. There's Foghorn Leghorn's lovelorn wallflower, Miss Prissy, along with Egghead Jr., Claude the Cat, the Three Bears, Hubie and Bertie, Marvin the Martian and even "Playboy," that cute little tuxedo-wearing wayward penguin from the traveling circus. The show is virtually a Who's Who of the Looney Tunes universe. It's like The Player for the kindergarten set.
Which, of course, is who this is intended for. As much as it pains me to say it, my six-year-old son enjoyed it, dagnabbit, and chances are your kids will too. The cartoon is colorful, the action loud, and there's always something silly happening. Plus it's brimming with Christmas cheer, which most kids will find appealing.
As for you? Just plug your kids into the world of Looney Tunes with this throwaway show, then hit them with the good stuff: selections from the Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection. And be sure to enjoy those classic shorts yourself, because after insipid projects like The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Duck Dodgers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action and now this, you might find yourself wishing someone would pull the plug on poor Bugs and company once and for all.
That's all, folks.
Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas is presented in its original full screen format with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio, and the disc gets high marks on presentation. Colors are bold and bright, and audio is strong and clear. No subtitles.
The package includes the "Lucky Duck Dilemma Menu Challenge," a pointless time killer in which the viewer uses the remote to help Daffy avoid obstacles while zipping around store aisles; "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," performed by Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band to clips from Bah, Humduck!; deleted scenes; and trailers for other kids' titles from Warner Bros.
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