Bah, hum Bugs
I have not done a thorough search, but Bah, Humduck appears to be the first Christmas Carol adaptation in Looney Tunes history. It took them almost 80 years to finally take the plunge. And after seeing how well it turned out, I honestly can’t blame them for taking that long to finally tell this story.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh; Bah, Humduck is not an outright catastrophe. It faces a steep difficulty curve — of the many tones that A Christmas Carol employs, slapstick is not one of them. Any adaptation by Looney Tunes was going to have to figure out how to make Charles Dickens’ novella fit into the the brand’s zany style of comic storytelling. But Bah, Humduck also commits some unforced errors and ends with a quirky, mostly unsatisfying production.
Rather than go for a straightforward adaptation of the material, or even a hybrid or framed version of the classic story, Bah, Humduck is a modernized retelling. Instead of Scrooge the penny-counting banker, we get Daffy the owner of a Walmart-esque super-store. His store is connected to a skyscraper that bears his image, evoking (intentionally or unintentionally) Donald Trump and Trump Tower. He is intent on forcing his wage slaves to work on Christmas morning and refusing them any sort of bonus or gift.
The film clocks in at about 45 minutes, and the film errs by devoting at least half of that length to setup. We spend a long time introducing our “old sinner” and the various characters who work at his store. A lot of the regulars are here: Speedy Gonzales and Pepe Le Pew and Porky Pig. Hanging around also is Bugs Bunny, here playing an omniscient narrator role like Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Eventually, indeed, ghosts start appearing, including Tweety as Christmas Past, Yosemite Sam as Christmas Present, and the Tasmanian Devil as Christmas Yet-to-Come. The whole cast gets moments to do their shtick. It is certainly a fun way to get little segments from characters we love, voiced with Mel Blanc imitations of varying quality.
The film never abandons its slapstick tone, even at the expense of telling a story. For example, every time we see Daffy in one of the ghost-visions making somebody’s life worse, rather than letting it sink into Daffy’s conscience in quiet shame as typically rendered in adaptations, the ghost smacks Daffy across the head, usually accompanied by some wacky sound effect or animated gag like Daffy’s bill falling off.
I enjoyed Bugs Bunny hanging around as an omniscient narrator and conscience. It’s very reminiscent of Gonzo as Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol. And there are some fun gags throughout — e.g. the tombstones in Christmas Yet To Come read “I’M DEAD.”
The short also had a handful of fun storytelling moments. I think more adaptations should show Scrooge second-guessing his transformation once he adds up all the dollars he’s bound to lose with his change in life direction at the end of the story. In real life, penny-pinching habits would die hard. And setting the story at a soul-sucking mega-store with an almost expressionistic corporate HQ is inspired.
Frankly, the biggest argument in the film’s favor is that the world is better off with more varied adaptations of the seminal Dickens work. I’m a junkie and I need my December Carol hit. And this is what it says on the tin: The approximate narrative of A Christmas Carol, but fully immersed in Looney Tunes shenanigans.
But it never really gels, and it’s so hell-bent on its silliness that its minor feints towards drama and character development fall flat. Allowing me to buy into a miser’s changed ways is the key to A Christmas Carol, so if you can’t achieve that, you’re definitely not getting a passing grade, even if I had some fun.
- Review Project: A Christmas Carol