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Ever since "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" hit theaters in 1988, Hollywood has
tried to replicate the formula of placing animated characters in the real
world and vice-versa. "Space Jam" was loved when first released but now
seems like a feature length commercial for Michael Jordan's career. "The
Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" worked on a spot-the-cameo level but
little else. "Cool World" has for the most part blissfully faded from
Then along comes "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" and does the impossible - it manages to be funny, entertaining and lively while still slowing things down at times to be insightful. Loaded with numerous celebrities mugging for the camera, satirical jabs at Hollywood and pop cultural references out the ying-yang, the movie has the true frantic nature of a cartoon.
Daffy Duck (voice of Joe Alaskey) has become fed up by constantly playing second banana to Bugs Bunny (also Alaskey) for the past six decades. He makes an ultimatum - either he gets equal billing and pay alongside Bugs, or he's out of there. Warner Bros. Vice President Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) promptly gives the duck the boot, and while vindictively wrecking havoc on the studio lot, Daffy hooks up with ne'er do well security guard D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) who happens to be the son of famous movie spy Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton).
D.J. is fired as well for not be able to stop Daffy's rampage, and reluctantly goes home with the duck in tow. However, things go crazy when he discovers that his father really is a spy and has been captured by the evil President of the ACME Corporation (Steve Martin). D.J must take up his father's mission of seeking the Blue Monkey Diamond, a mystical jewel that - like all mystical items in such movies - can be deadly in the wrong hands. Daffy's eyes naturally light up with greed at the sound of the word diamond and joins D.J.
Meanwhile, Kate is facing her own dismissal following less then stellar studio reviews of the latest Bugs cartoon without Daffy, and must track down the duck with Bugs' help to convince him to return. The four unlikely heroes team up to stop ACME, save Damian Drake and patch up Bugs and Daffy's fractured partnership.
A lot of love went into this product and it shows. Some of the best jokes are attacks on numerous sensitivity issues that protest groups have mounted against cartoons in the past few decades. Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzalez lament the effect that political correctness is having on their careers while Daffy is told that his constant complaining makes him appealing only to angry bald men who live in basements.
Sight gags rain in as well, the most memorable being a wonderfully conceived scene in the Louvre Museum in Paris where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs and Daffy in and out of numerous famous paintings like "The Scream" and "Persistence of Memory."
The voice acting here is all near perfect. Alaskey does a much better job imitating Mel Blanc's famous Bugs Bunny voice then Billy West did in "Space Jam." Bugs is still the street smart Brooklyn hustler he has always been, and adds a nice bit of levity to the proceedings.
Daffy is still delightfully conceited and selfish, though in a nice change of pace he is actually allowed to be heroic at some points. Also, it should be noted that while Bugs clearly control every scene he's in, this in indeed Daffy's movie and he carries it well.
Fraser has a strong enough presence to play alongside cartoon characters but doesn't have much to do in the humor department. We're reminded that like in "Dudley Do-Right," Fraser just can't make a character funny without decent lines.
Elfman is also lively but remains wallpaper to her animated co-stars, as she should. Dalton on the other hand manages to be serious and goofy at the same time, and seems to be having a great time spoofing his own James Bond character.
But it's Martin who really puts in a performance here, playing the ACME President with a combination of Jim Carrey's loose-limbed gait and Robin Williams' rapid-fire dialogue. He's a truly unique character for Martin to play, a live action cartoon competing for screen time with Bugs and the others. Martin makes him Dr. Evil as played by Jerry Lewis.
Director Joe Dante films this with the same tongue-in-cheek abandon that he used to bring "Gremlins" and "The Howling" to life. The movie's success owes much to his respect for cartoons, and his desire to undo the harm that "Space Jam" did to the characters is a breath of fresh air.
Along with fellow Warner Bros. characters like Wile E. Coyote, Pepe Le Pew and Sylvester the Cat, the movie also makes room for cameos by wrestler Bill Goldberg, Joan Cusack and even legendary B-movie schlockmeister Roger Corman.
"Looney Tunes: Back in Action" lacks the same originality that made "Roger Rabbit" immortal, but still has the energy and wit to remain memorable for decades to come. The movie twists the legends of the Warner stable while still honoring their personalities, and as such the movie works as both an homage to and a wink-at-the-audience spoof of the classic cartoons. It's a movie even Daffy will love.
Eight out of ten stars. Funny toons makes up for some lifeless actors, and the Looney Tunes legacy is returned to its former glory. Nothing despicable here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to admit having approached this movie with as much trepidation
as anticipation. After all, Mel Blanc is gone, Chuck Jones is gone, and
the hallowed Looney Tunes franchise now resides in the hands of younger
Think about all the things that could have gone wrong. The voices might not be quite the same. The animation might be done on the cheap, like a lot of modern "cartoons". The writers might opt for the kind of witless "humor" that seems to be in vogue today.
Happily, all my fears were unfounded. "Looney Tunes - Back in Action" is EXACTLY as good as I hoped it would be.
Not only are the animation and voices superb (the latter being indistinguishable from the originals), but "Looney Tunes" turns out to be a veritable showcase of variations on all those goofy gags you remember from the old cartoons. Characters walking into paintings, horribly defective ACME products, the running "rabbit season/duck season" feud...they're all here, with every bit of comic timing and inventiveness that you remember, and then some.
Fans of the old cartoons will have a field day catching glimpses of all sorts of minor players in the background. (Watch for Sam and Ralph, the sheepdog and wolf who pummel each other -- but only between 9 and 5 -- in the background of the cafeteria scene.) The writer, Larry Doyle, miraculously manages to cram dozens of minor Looney Tunes characters into the story, yet without making it seem awkward or contrived.
Of course, for the human characters, one needs actors almost as cartoony as the venerable WB rabbit and duck, and Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin work beautifully in their roles. Fraser of course already has "George of the Jungle" and "Dudley Do-Right" under his belt; Jenna Elfman always WAS something of a cartoon; and after so many movies that underutilize his comic talents, what a joy it is to see Steve Martin turned loose to perform the "wild and crazy" kind of comedy we haven't seen since the beginning of his career!
There are also gag appearances by Timothy Dalton as a James Bond-ish spy (hmmm...) and Heather Locklear as one of his covert cohorts. Both actors show a nice flair for comedy. (Casting directors, please note.) There are also a few surprise cameos which I wouldn't dare to spoil.
The plot (for those who apparently weren't paying attention) involves the head of the evil ACME corporation (Martin) and his attempt to find a magical diamond which can change humans into monkeys. Recently-fired Fraser and Daffy are hot on the trail of Fraser's father, a spy who was captured while attempting to stop Martin's diabolical plot. Elfman and Bugs follow. The trail leads the foursome to clues in Las Vegas and Paris, before reaching its climax in outer space. It's pretty much your standard James Bond plot, except that it's scads wittier. (For those who expected something meatier, please check the IMDb for the following references: KUBRICK, STANLEY...WELLES, ORSON...and BERGMAN, INGMAR.)
Half the fun comes from seeing the various "operatives" that ACME throws up against our heroes: Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote, et. al. And if that wasn't enough, there's a secret lab wherein Robby the Robot, Kevin McCarthy ("They're coming! Beware!"), and an assortment of recognizable 1950s bug-eyed monsters reside.
There's even a nice subtext involving Daffy's frustration at always playing straight man to Bugs, and the whole love/hate relationship between the two characters. Clearly, writer Doyle knows this material inside and out.
There are inherent dangers in taking characters that were, after all, short subjects, and expanding them into a 90-minute movie. Doyle overcomes these nicely, thank you, by moving Bugs, Daffy, Fraser and Elfman from one set-piece to another. He also eschews the all-too-common tendency nowadays to make an action movie fastfastfast, without any change of pace so we can catch our breaths. But no matter whether the characters are involved in an action sequence or just standing around talking, the gags come thick and fast.
Everything is rounded out with some nice special effects, and a zippy music score by the ever-reliable Jerry Goldsmith, who manages to beautifully integrate several classic Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott cues. (Yeah, you remember Scott. His music was that piece they played whenever they showed some sort of giant conveyor belt or monstrous contraption.)
As for those who didn't find this movie funny, all I can do is quote Bugs: "...If you don't find a rabbit wearing lipstick amusing, then we ain't got nothing' to say to each other."
Or in the words of Daffy: "Youuuuuuuuuu're despicable!"
What movie did those negative reviewers see?! It sure wasn't the affectionate, screamingly funny, devilishly clever animation/live-action comedy-adventure my family and I saw! Perhaps you need to be a Looney Tunes lover like our household and director Joe Dante to best appreciate this zany romp, because when we weren't laughing hysterically over the wall-to-wall gags (often delightfully inventive, like the sequence in the Louvre and the space climax -- and don't you dare leave before the end credits finish rolling!), the various pop culture references had us grinning, and not just the cameos by more obscure Looney Tunes characters (and I don't just mean Nasty Canasta and Cottontail Smith as Vegas casino owner Yosemite Sam's strong-arm boys, either!); spy flicks and action-adventure flicks come in for some sharply funny ribbing, too. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a couple of other beloved animated characters owned by Time-Warner these days. The humans are up to the task of acting opposite the irrepressible 'toons, too (Joe Dante fans, keep an eye out for cameos by his favorite actors and a certain B-movie director), especially hilariously ridiculous villain Steve Martin (as the head of the Acme Corporation -- which explains a lot :-) and Brendan Fraser, who good-naturedly sends up his own role in a certain movie franchise as well as simply being full of the muffiny goodness that long ago won our household's collective heart! :-) Don't listen to those flinthearted critics -- just see LOONEY TUNES... and have a big ol' laughariffic time!
Even though I had heard good things about this film, I didn't expect
that much....but was very surprised. It's good, very entertaining and
worth watching. The humor is excellent with some very funny things in
here and very clever in spots. It helps a lot to know your Looney Tunes
characters and it helps a great deal to know your film history.
References to old films and characters are everywhere. For that reason,
I would recommend this film for classic movie fans. They'll be
On the bad side, I found the film too loud, which is no surprise since cartoons tend to be that way. The loudest may have been Daffy Duck, who is a major player in this film. The female lead, Jenna Elman, is too hard-looking and just not likable to me.
The positives outweigh the negatives, however. If you can put up with the loudness and stupid acting (Steve Martin is brutal here in that regard), you'll still get a ton of laughs out of this movie.
Back in Action really captured that snarky wit we all love from Bugs, the put upon egomaniac that is Daffy and many of the other great traits of the original crew from the glory days of the Looney Tunes. Dante really knows this territory and his affection for the material is very apparent. He is the ONLY logical choice for the director (watch his older films for countless references to the Looney Tune gang). The humans are all game, but never upstage the real stars (Bugs and the Gang of course), rather they simply add to the film and give us at least a few flesh and blood characters for us to relate to. Fraser is once again both heroic and likable/goofy, Elfman is sexy and a bit cynical in fresh change of pace from her more docile "Dharma" character from t.v. and Martin is like a human cartoon character himself. He hasn't been this "out there" and unpredictable since his celebrated stand-up days. He does anything but play it safe, and ends up with a memorable, if not a little eccentric performance. Timothy Dalton as Fraser's Dad is a real stand-out both referencing and spoofing his 007 past, without scuffing up himself or the good Bond name. The fact he plays it so straight really adds to the quality of his scenes and jokes (love the "slapping himself" scene!). There are some really inspired bits here; funny and clever. The scene in the Louvre was both gorgeous to watch and so funny I laughed harder than I have at the theaters for a while. The entire outer space sequence is also just jammed packed with so many great bits you'll need to see it twice just to take it all in. It's unfortunate this little gem of a flick has been gobbled up in the busy holiday release schedule, but fans should be pleased this film was made at all and will be able to own and enjoy it in the near future. I loved it, as did my 12 year old sister, my girlfriend and the theater I saw it with. Sad there will probably not be another large scale Looney production after this, but we have this one to treasure. I believe over time, and certainly on home video / DVD, Back in Action will find it's audience. Like all great cult films, it will probably take some time for it to be discovered, but fans will keep it alive. examples? Big Trouble in Little China, Tron, Buckaroo Banzai, Austin Powers, Swingers and F/X are just a handful of films that did very poor or just ok at the box office, but went on to great success on home video and in many cases garnered RABID cult followings that have made them favorites with fans even today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! DON'T READ IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS!!!)
I, like so much of America's population, grew up watching Looney Tunes. Those old classic cartoons are just about the only thing that I find just as funny now as I did when I was three, if not more so. When I walked into "Looney Tunes Back In Action" I realized that the people behind it were mere pretenders to the Chuck Jones throne. I braced myself for the fact that it might suck. Didn't matter. I consider myself an animation buff, and this was a Looney Tunes movie, a tribute to the funniest cartoons ever made.
I sat down, suffered through what seemed like three hours worth of ads (this was an AMC theater) and then, when the film began, I proceeded to grin like a loon for ninety minutes.
The film had everything. Terrific animation, direction and special effects that combined the live action and animation seamlessly, a breakneck speed that almost topped the original cartoons, and most of all great writing. When Jenna Elfman's character reminds Warner execs that her combined movies have grossed $950,000, their Simpsonian response is "That's not a billion." In a restaurant scene, Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales lament the need to be PC while Shaggy and Scooby give Matthew Lilliard a deserved chewing-out. And having the villain be the head of the ACME corporation was a brilliant touch, and casting Steve Martin for the role was icing on the cake.
Brendan Fraser and Elfman do what they're there for, no more, no less. They set up the comedic pins for Bugs and Daffy to knock down. The cartoons are the true stars here, especially Daffy, who after decades of getting his beak blown off finally gets the chance to play the hero. I loved that the writers were able to find the perfect blend between the Bob Clampett "Woo-Hoo, Whoo-Hoo" duck and the Chuck Jones "You're Dithpicable" duck. And the voices are as dead-on as possible with Mel Blanc dead. I still slightly prefer Billy West's Bugs voice (in Space Jam) to Joe Alaskey's, but this is a minor quibble.
Early on, when I heard that Eric Goldberg would be directing the animation, my trust in the project skyrocketed. Goldberg was the supervising animator of the Genie in Aladdin, a film which Jones himself called the funniest feature ever made. If there's anyone up to the job of remaking the Tunes for the new milloonium, it's him.
The film's piece de resistance, however, is a sequence that takes place in the Louvre in Paris, in which Elmer Fudd chases Bugs and Daffy through all the paintings, and as they run they take on the styles of Dali, Munch and Seurat among others. The scene's cultural knowledge recalls Chuck Jones in the best way.
With the exception of this scene (and perhaps without even that exception), the film does not aspire to be high art. It merely aspires to be fun, and succeeds triumphantly. It's definitely the best "classic cartoon characters interacting with live actors" movie since Roger Rabbit; it's far funnier and more focused than Space Jam, and it contains none of the saccharine lesson-learning that ruined The Adventures of Rocky And Bullwinkle. It's just plain fun.
There is the mandatory product placement, but even that is given its due for the film's never-ending speil of mockery: "It was sure nice of Wal-Mart to give us all this free Wal-Mart stuff in return for saying Wal-Mart so much." Some people have complained about this, but I say that the filmmakers are simply having their cake and eating it too. These same complainers pointed out that the film is chock full of cross-references to other Warner products like Scooby Doo and Batman. The fact is, after seeing this film I didn't want to see the next Batman movie, or suffer through the Scooby Doo sequel, or (shudder) shop at Wal-Mart any more than I did before the previews ended. Maybe I'm the exception rather than the rule, but I think companies who pay to have their products in movies are, for the most part, wasting their money.
This leads me to the bane of my existence: Bloody Critics, or BCs. Some of these reviews are from people who just didn't get it, and those reviews I can brush off. But the worst ones are from those who claim to be animation buffs, who for the most part rallied against the cheapening of the great works of art that were the original Chuck Jones cartoons. The kinds of people who took college courses that study these cartoons because they were too lazy for a real literature course. The people who hold Chuck Jones to be sacred, who consider it blasphemy to leave "What's Opera Doc" off the recent DVD set.
I say, these BCs have lost sight of something very important. Even though Chuck Jones would occasionally make a cartoon which made you think as well as laugh (Duck Amuck, What's Opera Doc, One Froggy Evening), I would say at least 75% of his output did not have such high aspirations, and was simply meant to be entertaining and fun. Occasionally they would make cartoons that spoofed Wagner and other classics, but more often they would spoof then- current pop-cultural entities like Buck Rogers and Errol Flynn. Look at those Road Runner cartoons: they're pretty much all the same! But does it matter? Of course not. What matters is how fun they are, and how much you laugh. I say, the same principle applies to this film. The film contains innumerable references to recent pop culture, and perhaps the best one of all is a shot of Bugs catching a fish and saying "Hey, whaddaya know - I found Nemo!" If you can't just sit back and laugh at that, and yet you consider yourself an animation buff, I shake my head and wonder why.
"Back in Action" is definitely aimed at adults who remember and watched the
old WB cartoons. It's chock full of inside jokes and gags. I loved
Brendan Fraser (has there ever been a more oddball action hero then Brendan?) plays the son of WB's most famous movie star. Yet on his way to fulfill his dream of being a stuntman, he has delivered pizzas in a Gremlin and worked as a security guard on the WB studio lot. That's funny!
Props to Daffy Duck for being his usual manic self (I had to write that. My girlfriend loves Daffy). Steve Martin revels as the head of Acme in sensible shoes. Joan Cusack is a kick in the hilarious Area 52 scenes. And Jenna Elfman doesn't seem to know what to make of it all.
Daffy Duck finally has enough of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny,
he quits the Hollywood studio and teams up with Bobby Delmont (Brendan
Fraser) an ex-stuntman; together they go on a mission to rescue Damian
Drake (Timothy Dalton) a spy who has been captured by the evil chairman
of the Acne corporation (Steve Martin)
With strong comic performances from Brendan Fraser, Steve Martin and Jenna Elfman, plus everyone's favourite Looney Tunes, this film is a good laugh for the whole family, and the blend between cartoon and real life is the best i have seen.
The Looney Tunes gang is at it again, in a wonderful combination of the
old lovable, predictable gags and the occasional fresh, new perspective.
Bugs and Daffy are joined by Porky, Speedy, Sam, Granny, Marvin . . . the
list goes on and on. (Some characters give cameo appearances only, but I
enjoyed seeing them all.) You need to know that Brendan Fraser starred in
"The Mummy" and that Timothy Dalton did a brief stint as James Bond a few
years ago to truly appreciate some of the jokes, but this movie will keep
you laughing for the full ninety minutes and then some!
Advice for those who would rent this movie:
1. Don't expect an award-winning "film", just expect a good time.
2. If you don't like cartoon humor or people/movies that poke fun at themselves, rent something else.
3. Don't eat while watching this movie (unless you LIKE choking on your popcorn/raisinettes/etc)!
4. Don't be afraid to pause the movie if you need to breathe, visit the facilities, or mop up the soda you just did a spit-take with. :D
Mysteries never cease. This smart and hysterically funny film tanks
spectacularly and the disappointing Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a
blockbuster and Scooby Doo gets a sequel. Maybe people do get the films
they deserve after all!
Joe Dante has always been hit and miss outside of the Gremlins films, but this is way up there with Gremlins 2 as his masterpiece. Unlike recent shorts, this recaptures the feel and insanity of the great Looney Tunes perfectly and Dante fills the live action world they inhabit when not making shorts with more in-gags than you can shake a stick at - and 90% of them are great. Yet critics despised it apart from the brilliant chase in the Louvre: maybe they were too dumb to pick up on the in-jokes? Even Steve Martin isn't as bad as they made out. And the film has a great score by Jerry Goldsmith too.
Terrific entertainment, one of the funniest all-round comedies I've ever seen!
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