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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Dante's third masterpiece puts the LOONEY back in Looney Tunes"
5 stars

Joe Dante’s “Looney Tunes: Back In Action” celebrates its characters in a way that hasn’t been done since “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” An avid detractor of the Michael Jordan commercial “Space Jam,” Dante set out to bring back the spirit of the Warner Brothers franchise by letting the animated characters take center stage instead of the other way around. The result is a freeform satirical outburst of mayhem that stays true to the cartoons I remember watching with my family every Saturday morning. Aimed at adults, but enjoyed by children everywhere, the Looney Tunes has finally received the comeback it so desperately needed.

They couldn’t have hired a better director for the job. Joe Dante has made a filmmaking career out of pop culture nostalgia. A student of Roger Corman, Dante has always mixed monsters, horror and comedy with social commentary. He has two unqualified masterpieces: “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” and “Matinee.” The latter forgoes satire for pure unadulterated nostalgia for William Castle movies, while the former forgoes plot and logic in order to become an insane grab bag of jokes and movie references (including Looney Tunes), while brilliantly satirizing itself. “Looney Tunes”—Dante’s third masterpiece—feels like a combination of the two.

The plot matters not one whit. Brendan Frazier plays DJ Drake, a wannabe stunt man in Hollywood who just got fired by movie producer Kate (Jenna Elfman). Also canned by Warner Brothers is the indomitable Daffy Duck, who latches onto DJ Drake in what starts out being a completely believable buddy picture. DJ and Daffy learn that DJ’s dad, Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton)—star of numerous spy movies such as “The Spy Was Me,” “Ollie Ollie Uncum Spy” and “Spy Spy Spy”—has been kidnapped by the evil Mr. Chairman (a manic Steve Martin).

Mr. Chairman and his henchmen at ACME (what else?) plan to turn the entire world into monkeys with the help of a diamond called The Blue Monkey. DJ and Daffy go to Vegas to begin the quest for the diamond. Meanwhile, Kate, who has just been fired from Warner Brothers for firing Daffy Duck, must try and find Daffy in order to save her career. She and Bugs Bunny head out to Vegas to find Daffy.

Okay, that’s all you really need to know. Eventually, they all meet up and hundreds upon hundreds of Warner Brothers characters make appearances, from the boxing kangaroo to the sheepdog with the punch card. Dante and his team have left no reference unturned. The point of this movie is not to sell tennis shoes or the NBA, but to make you laugh with these characters the way we used to. The movie consists of one brilliant set piece to another with little regard for logic or depth.

However, if you know your Dante and b-movies inside and out, you will have a slightly better grasp of the humor than people who don’t. In the middle of the movie, Daffy, Bugs, DJ and Kate enter a restricted scientific lab in the middle of the desert, a la Area 51. With this sequence, Dante unleashes his trademark of referencing such movies as “Robot Monster,” “This Island Earth” and “Lost In Space,” while the discovery of this lab cleverly parodies a more recent sci-fi movie. And anyone who has seen “Twilight Zone: The Movie” and “Gremlins 2” numerous times will have a big laugh as their jaws drop to the floor as if to ask, “How did Dante get away with that joke?”

The reason Dante gets away with a lot of the humor in this movie is because he possesses the same sensibilities as Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Friz Freleng. He knows how to find that middle ground of being satirical, irreverent and socially conscious while keeping in mind that kids will be watching and waiting for the ha-has. The movie has a lot of fun at the expense of corporate entities, shameless promotional tie-ins (by the way, you can read my Joe Dante retrospective piece at, spy movies and, yes, Michael Jordan.

The human cast works beautifully alongside their invisible animated counterparts. Brendan Fraser has always been good at making unpredictable career choices (his last movie was the prestigious “The Quiet American”) and he is the perfect choice for the lead human. Jenna Elfman seems to have no problem going along with the joke. She pretty much just reacts to everything around her and does an okay job. All of Dante’s regulars show up for supporting roles, including Robert Picardo, Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller.

Steve Martin, however, steals the human side of the show with what has to be his goofiest performance since Ruprecht the Monkey Boy in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Martin practically creates a human Warner Brothers character with his slight speech impediment, his hiked-to-the-kneecaps trousers and outrageous physicality. We can now forgive him for “Bringing Down The House.”

But the movie belongs to Daffy Duck, as well it should. For decades now, we have witnessed the ongoing feud between Daffy and Bugs, which exists mostly out of Daffy’s ungracious envy towards Bugs’ success. But, really, what’s funnier? Bugs in drag or Daffy getting his beak shot off? Here’s a tough one: Which is funnier? Daffy Duck as Robin Hood or Bugs Bunny in “The Rabbit of Seville”? If you’re laughingly pondering this and haven’t seen “Looney Tunes: Back In Action,” now would be a great time to shut off the computer and head out to see this movie, because that’s the kind of spirit in evokes. Of course, the least funniest character is Tweety-Bird, and the movie is mindful of that as well.

I realize I haven’t delved into much about specific jokes that make this movie so damn funny. If you remember those old Warner Brothers cartoons, you already know. If you’re a fan of Joe Dante’s work, you know even more. To give away or explain jokes from this movie seems pointless, almost criminal. I can only say that I laughed longer and harder at this movie than any other movie this year. I left the movie with the spirit and anthem of Toon Town from “Roger Rabbit” buzzing all around. It had me laughing out loud and smiling all the way through and realizing that “the whole world is a great world after all.” Especially this world.

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originally posted: 11/16/03 19:32:58
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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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