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Overall Rating

Worth A Look42.11%
Average: 9.21%
Pretty Bad: 2.63%
Total Crap: 3.95%

6 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Looney Tunes: Back in Action
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by EricDSnider

"Our old animated friends deserve better, but this is decent."
4 stars

Bugs Bunny puts it best in his new film: "If you don't find a rabbit in lipstick amusing, you and I have nothing to say to each other."

I believe this sums up the merry, slapstick appeal of the old Warner Bros. cartoons, some of which is recaptured (and some of which is most assuredly not) in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," a Roger Rabbit-ish blend of live action and animation in which the humor is sometimes as heavy as the anvils, and other times as subtle as Porky Pig's gay subtext.

It's a mixed bag, and even those of us who DO find a rabbit in lipstick amusing won't love every minute of it. Looney Tunes characters were meant to appear in shorts, not feature-length films, and their charm is not generally sustainable in anything more than short bursts. An irascible duck is daffy for six minutes; after 90 minutes, he's a headache.

The film is set in the present, in a version of reality where cartoon characters are actual beings who exist in the same world as humans. Bugs Bunny is Warner Bros.' top draw, which irks Daffy Duck, prompting the latter into a fit which gets him fired by exec Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). He is removed from the studio lot by security guard DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser), whom he attaches himself to as his new best friend and agent.

Daffy discovers that DJ's dad is Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton), Warner Bros.' most popular human and star of numerous spy films. (Dalton played James Bond in the 1980s, so you see where they're going here.) Dad's been taken captive in Las Vegas, however, and sends a message for DJ to come rescue him. He sets out, accompanied by Daffy and pursued by Bugs and Kate, who needs to rehire Daffy, since the ol' comedy act isn't working without the foil.

Whew. Turns out Dad is the hostage of Mr. Chairman, head of the evil Acme Corporation, played with exceeding fey goofiness by Steve Martin, who is clearly thinking as though he were actually a cartoon.

The plot, clearly, is not the film's strong point, having been borrowed from "Spy Kids," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and numerous others. Still Larry Doyle's ("Duplex," TV's "The Simpsons") script is rather clever in the way it manufactures opportunities to encounter classic WB characters. Sending everyone to Las Vegas means they can run into Yosemite Sam, who now operates a Wild West-themed casino (of course!), and subsequently get lost in the desert, where they'll naturally meet Wile E. Coyote. A trip to Paris gets them hopping through paintings in the Louvre (one of the film's more creative sequences), and also puts them on Pepe Le Pew's home turf.

The screenplay is packed with jokes, too, many of them in the same anarchic spirit of pop-cultural referencing as the old Looney Tunes shorts, plus some self-reference thrown in for good measure. In a lab where aliens are kept, we see a black-and-white Kevin McCarthy running through carrying a pod, crying, "They're here! You're next!," just like he did in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956). Michael Jordan pops up briefly, a reference to the awful "Space Jam" (1996), which also joined WB 'toons with humans. And when DJ gets in his car, a Gremlin, we briefly hear the music from "Gremlins" (1984), which, like this film, was scored by Jerry Goldsmith and directed by Joe Dante. (That last one's a subtle joke; how many people even remember the music from "Gremlins"? I caught it, but how many equally subtle jokes did I miss?) There are a zillion references to a zillion movies -- not rip-offs, like the plot, but references, and funny, juicy ones at that.

Dante treats the beloved characters with appropriate levels of respect and mischief. He does not betray who they are, but neither does he worship them. The various actors who provide the voices -- Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Billy West and June Foray among them -- acquit themselves well, especially considering Foray, as the voice of Granny, is the only original cast member still alive, and the rest are doing impersonations.

It is not an outstanding film, and surely not as good as these fantastic characters deserve. But, as I said, they don't deserve entire films at all. They deserve shorts, as those are where their assets can be best capitalized upon. But if we are to have full-length movies, then we could do worse than this one. The jokes are plentiful and not generally puerile. (Although, this being the 21st century, there simply MUST be a fart joke -- well, not a joke, really. Someone farts; that's it. More of a fart incident than a fart joke, I guess.) The personalities of these old childhood friends of our come to life outstandingly, and the humans who accompany them on film manage to avoid injury.

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originally posted: 11/19/03 11:39:55
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User Comments

8/31/12 roscoe so fast paced and so many great gags allow you to not notice few weaknesses 4 stars
10/02/09 Jeff Wilder Entertaining mix of animated and human comedy. 4 stars
11/22/08 Shaun Wallner Hilarious Movie! 4 stars
10/19/08 Samantha Pruitt pretty funny, cartoons doing people things always cracks me up! 4 stars
10/30/06 AJ Muller Awesome and hilarious (piss on you, Space Jam) - thank the Lord for Joe Dante. 5 stars
6/29/06 George A fun movie with a silly plot. That's where I laugh. Ha,Ha,Ha,Ha! 4 stars
5/16/06 N/A (John Doe) better than most movies 4 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Very funny, but the toons got pushed into background in 2nd 1/2. 5 stars
5/12/05 tatum Sometimes awkward, but still funny (and, yes, better than "Space Jam") 4 stars
2/07/05 Jeff Anderson Better, MUCH BETTER than that horrible SPACE JAM! Joe Dante was certainly right for this!!! 5 stars
10/31/04 G-man excellent movie!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/26/04 Phil Crap crap crap. the trouser bit was funny. for kids only! not even stoners can enjoy this 2 stars
8/25/04 K Man sucks d*#% 1 stars
8/23/04 jmsynth More laughs then almost any film this year. After SJ, nice2remember these arent just 4kids 5 stars
8/01/04 Jim Deeney Totally Wicked 5 stars
7/23/04 Conor Great excellent, very funny 5 stars
3/31/04 Ken Stryker No Offence But This Wasn't Worth The Rental, Space Jam is way better 1 stars
3/14/04 Foghorn This was 1 of the best movies ever 5 stars
2/27/04 Ian Fairholm Much better than I'd expected, reaching genius level on occasions, but inconsistent 4 stars
2/27/04 mike It's got razor-sharp wit, and it's a Daffy Duck movie. What's not to like? 5 stars
2/23/04 Jiz Great movie with or without the nostalgia trip 5 stars
1/25/04 agent222 very entertaining 4 stars
1/16/04 Gretchen Seitz Great for kid-0riented stuff! Too bad they let Heather Flopsneer in it. 4 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Like "Space Jam", it has its moments, but runs out of steam way before the climax. 2 stars
1/03/04 Farnq Y I will do good this time Pa..SHADDUP, and let's get going...but Henry 5 stars
1/01/04 Bill I went with my 9 year old daughter and we both enjoyed it. 4 stars
12/24/03 Twisted Goon Jesus Christ McKenna, Don't say Space Jam! This movie is excellent for animation freaks!!! 5 stars
12/02/03 Guertin S Sweet mother of God! SWEET! 5 stars
11/23/03 Chrys fantastic 5 stars
11/22/03 ross hendrick the heyday of the looney tunes has passed 3 stars
11/19/03 Chris I loved it. Went in with low expections and got alot of laughs. See it. 4 stars
11/18/03 michaelb14 DUCK DODGERSSSS TO THE RESCUE 5 stars
11/18/03 McKenna KICKED SPACE JAM'S SORRY ASS!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
11/18/03 Jim The Freak A satirical, hysterical masterpiece that was MADE for movie freaks! 5 stars
11/16/03 bender best movie of the whole fuggin year. daffy was the hero! 5 stars
11/15/03 Titus Steve Martin wasn't great, but everyone/thing else was AWESOME! 5 stars
11/15/03 Jon Lyrik Steve Martin and the characters are truly priceless. 4 stars
11/14/03 Schmitty The first time in a while where a movie does justice to the characters. 5 stars
11/10/03 cutie classic characters: both animated and live! 5 stars
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  14-Nov-2003 (PG)
  DVD: 02-Mar-2004



Directed by
  Joe Dante

Written by
  Larry Doyle

  Brendan Fraser
  Jenna Elfman
  Steve Martin
  Joan Cusack
  Timothy Dalton
  Heather Locklear

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