Looney Tunes Back in Action
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Joe Dante
scr Larry Doyle
with Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Joan Cusack, Timothy Dalton, Heather Locklear, Mary Woronov, Matthew Lillard, Robert Picardo, Ron Perlman, Peter Graves, Michael Jordan
voices Joe Alaskey, Jeff Glenn Bennett, Billy West, Eric Goldberg
release US 14.Nov.03; UK 13.Feb.04
03/US 1h30

Welcome to the jungle: Daffy, Elfman, Fraser, Bugs.

fraser elfman martin
cusack lillard locklear
Looney Tunes - Back In Action Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Warner Bros takes a second stab at putting its brilliant Looney Tunes characters into an animated/live action adventure comedy (I never saw 1996's Space Jam). And while there's something here, this film never remotely close. After years playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck finally loses his cool and gets sacked by Warner Bros' Comedy VP Kate (Elfman). In the process of being escorted off the lot by security guard DJ (Fraser), Daffy causes even more havoc, getting DJ fired as well. What Kate doesn't know is that DJ is the son of the studio's top star, Damien Drake (Dalton), who's been kidnapped by the nefarious ACME chairman (Martin). So off DJ and Daffy go to rescue him, find the supernaturally powered Blue Monkey diamond and save the world. They're pursued by Kate and Bugs to Las Vegas, Paris and the jungles of Africa.

The film is set in a world where cartoon characters coexist with flesh and blood humans, and this combination creates the film's best gags, such as when Daffy and Bugs dive into paintings in a Paris museum, or when characters indulge in zany visual hijinks we remember from the vintage cartoons. But the script just isn't smart enough to stay at this level of inventiveness; it falls back on movie in-jokes that are often unfunny, while the amusing spoofs are irrelevant because they're not even Warner Bros films! It's not like Warners doesn't have perhaps the most memorable back catalogs in Hollywood. So why are they satirising things like Psycho (Universal), James Bond (MGM), Star Wars (Fox) and Men in Black (Columbia)? Other references work better (like a conversation between Lillard and his cartoon alter-ego Shaggy), there are lots of clever cameos and it's great to see these great cartoon characters, even if some seem shoehorned into the plot. As usual, Fraser exudes charm and energy in a not-very-interesting role. Elfman is fine but badly cast--she has more energy in one scene from Dharma & Greg than in this sleepy role. And Martin is unspeakably awful, overplaying to extremes that are, frankly, unforgivable. But I blame Dante, who seems to feel that throwing everything at the screen all the time will make a lively, energetic movie. But it lacks coherence and soul;it's just exhausting noise with brief sparks of wit.

cert PG mild innuendo and cartoon violence 7.Dec.03

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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall