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LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton, Joan Cusack, Heather Locklear
Director: Joe Dante
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: March 2, 2004

“Ehh, what gives, Doc? We made 35 pictures together.”

“Well, as it turns out, I’m secwetwy evil.”

“That’s showbiz for you.”

Film ***1/2

If there is one thing I will never ever grow out of, it’s my love for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang, and I have no problem vocally admitting that, as I am now a grown man. As for life on the big screen, the WB animated much hasn’t had many turns. Back in 1996, they were given a big break with Space Jam, a much fun sports adventure that teamed them up with basketball great Michael Jordan. Now, they get their biggest cinematic moment yet with Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and one thing’s for certain, this one was made strictly for the fans!

Seamlessly blending in animation and live action, and the best one to do it since Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the movie is effortlessly hysterical and incredibly inspired right from opening frame. The movie opens like a cartoon you’ve seen before. In an animated forest, we see dimwitted Elmer Fudd tiptoeing through the woods, telling the audience, “Shh, be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits, HA-HA-HA-HA”. This, of course, is followed by a bitter feud between rivals Bugs and Daffy over which hunting season it is. Daffy, proven wrong as always, takes several blows to the face.

What seems like a repeated cartoon is actually Daffy reading over a scene in an upcoming movie he’s signed on to do with his more popular co-star. When the heated Duck demands a little more pay for playing second to the Rabbit, the Brothers Warner respond by firing Daffy. The firing is carried out not only by the Duck’s demands for higher pay, but demographic studies cited by Kate (Jenna Elfman), VP of Comedy, that Daffy’s fan base is limited to angry fat guys living in basements, while Bugs is adored around the world.

Enter DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser), a security guard at WB Studios. He’s ordered to throw Daffy off the lot, a process that results in a disaster on the set, which gets DJ fired as well. Needless to say, the two are stuck with one another. DJ’s gig as a security guard is only a side job, as he informs Daffy that he’s a stuntman for Brendan Fraser, claiming that he was in the Mummy movies more than he was. DJ also happens to be the son of secret agent Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton), who’s supposedly out on another dangerous assignment.

When DJ discovers that his father has in fact been kidnapped by the evil ACME corporation, and it’s most evil head (Steve Martin), DJ starts off on a quest, along with Daffy, which will take him to Las Vegas, and lead to other exotic locations including Paris, Africa, and…a desert which happens to have it’s very own Wal-Mart. The mission is not only to save DJ’s father, but also to recover a lost diamond known as the Blue Monkey. Kate and Bugs are also on a mission to relocate Daffy when it’s discovered that firing the Duck was a mistake, as he is very much needed for the movie. They all run into each other in Vegas, and the wild chase begins.

Upon discovering that the super spy’s son is on a rescue mission, ACME dispatches their top henchmen to stop them. In Vegas, casino boss Yosemite Sam tries to intercept them, in a fast pace and funny action sequence, which involves Sam carjacking NASCAR star Jeff Gordon’s racecar. When the gang finds itself in the desert, ACME alerts the brilliantly dimwitted Wylie Coyote to stop them by way of the weapons supplied by the corporation. Finally, as a last resort, the evil corporation turns to the hideous Tasmanian Devil to thwart DJ’s heroic efforts.

The director, Joe Dante, does a flawless job of combining eye gazing visuals and non-stop hilarity. There’s even a brief nod to the director’s Gremlins, as DJ explains to Daffy about why he drives the car he drives. The movie has countless inspired moments, but perhaps the most outstanding sequence is a scene set in The Louvre. Elmer Fudd is pursuing Bugs and Daffy in a foot chase, which begins in the building, and ends up in several paintings such as Dali’s “Persistence of Memory”, Munch’s “The Scream”, and Seurat’s “La Grande Jatte”, with each painting sequence providing huge, huge laughs.

Another big laugh comes late in the film in a space battle between Bugs, Daffy and Marvin Martian. It’s a battle that leads to Bugs whipping out his carrot-light saber to battle the Martian, as he quickly glances over a copy of “The Force For Dummies” in the process. Daffy, meanwhile, chickening out at first, realizes that he possesses an alter ego named Duck Dodgers, and attempts to do his part, even in the presence of exploding rockets.

Both a hugely entertaining adventure comedy and a visually gazing piece of animation and live action, as well as a terrific homage to some of the greatest creations in the history of animation, I seriously think anyone will get a big kick out of Looney Tunes: Back In Action. It’s a never-ending laugh riot, which is loaded with self-kidding humor, a huge number of cameos, and a fun-filled feeling about itself that never dries out. It’s definitely one of the more entertaining movies you’re likely to come across.

Video ****

It now seems that week after week, I am coming across another fantastic looking disc, and I’m pleased to report that WB has scored another home run with this anamorphic presentation. First off, the appearance of live action and animation has never looked more incredible in the format. The animated colors are simply something for the eyes to witness. The picture also provides endless amounts of detail in every frame, which is key in this movie since nearly every shot has something going on in just about every area of the picture. Quite simply, and honestly, one of the most outstanding looking releases thus far. A full screen version is also available, but as always, you shouldn’t bother.

Audio ****

The movie also has a lot going for it in the sound department, too, as the wonderfully executed 5.1 mix illustrates. This is one presentation that epitomizes full range audio display, with every area getting their equal share of sound power. The film’s many action scenes and chases play off extraordinarily well, especially the antics involving Mr. Coyote. If anything, this is pure sound quality that everyone, especially Looney Tunes enthusiasts, will forever cherish.

Features ***

Although a commentary track is nowhere to be found, the disc isn’t left sparse by any means. Included are two featurettes, “Behind the Tunes” and “Bang Crash Boom”, which are both hosted by Bugs and Daffy. The first is a tour of the movie set where much of the movie was shot, and the second is a take on the visual and special effects. Also featured are some deleted scenes, a new Looney Tunes short titled “Whizzard of Ow” starring Road Runner and Wylie Coyote, a trailer, and some extra DVD-Rom content.

Summary:

With Finding Nemo clearly being the best animated release of last year, I have no trouble placing the equally inspired Looney Tunes: Back in Action in a close second, with an extra dose of credit for taking animation and live action blending to extreme new heights. It’s fast, funny, and ultimately Daffy-est.