Is Bugs Bunny funny? I ask because it strikes me that his mixture of sass, insouciance and hyper-active bluster is much more dated than that of many of his Looney Tunes brethren. This was borne out by his lacklustre turn in Looney Tunes: Back In Action.

It is difficult to notice how poor even the concept of Bugs is these days in a film so hyper-actively insistent on pushing him into a second fiddle position. This is Looney Tunes, not the Brendan Fraser* and Jenna Elfman career suicide show. Certainly in the not being funny race this film has a Steve Martin turn of such ineptitude that it is hard to believe anyone ever let him in a comedy club, let alone let him perform. But there is Bugs, and there is Daffy and well, for sheer laughter value: Daffy is funnier. The problem with Bugs is he tries too hard to be cool. He is like The Fonz of animated characters. Rarely funny himself his is at his best as a nemesis to other hyperactive characters. As a counter-point to Yosemite Sam, this is easy. As a star in his own right, where are the gags?

The plot of the film is that Daffy gets fired from Warner Brothers because he isn’t as funny as Bugs. But Daffy is the everyman(duck), the bluffing, over-confident idiot we all are, or our bosses are. Daffy is a malleable black soup of possibilities. Bugs is a catchphrase, a carrot and always wins. Anyway the plot then throws in some ridiculous secret agent nonsense which highlights that
a) cartoons live in the real world
b) this is actually a film not the real world
And we wonder why five-year olds have trouble fitting in?

Not happy to just plunder the Looney Tunes legacy, Scooby Doo and Shaggy briefly rock up, Batman, Robbie The Robot and even a rogue Dalek in the mix. I believe this is the reason Terry Nation’s estate were a bit peeved with the BBC. Anyway, the whole things is a mess, not very funny and a complete waste of Joe Dante’s talents. Pop culture geek that Dante is, he does not know when to stop, and here everything and the kitchen sink is thrown in, as if to say that no-one really trusts the Looney Tunes characters to perform to a modern audience.

That might be right, maybe these characters belong to a bygone age. But it is not as if they have really been given a chance. Endless efforts at making compilation movies, Looney Tunes Jr, and ropey live action tie-ins forget that Daffy and even unfun Bugs were best in their five minute shorts. In, out and you never get to consider what it is that Elmer Fudd finds so attractive about a rabbit in drag.

*Not Brent Fraser, star of early soft-core porn such as Wild Orchid II, which I am sure Brendan Fraser wished he had been in now.