Looney Tunes: Back In Action

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner9/02/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Fast-paced, inventive, frequently funny comedy that will delight both kids and fans of the original cartoons, despite the odd flaw.

Robert Zemeckis’ 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? set the standard for the interaction between live action and animation – it was also beautifully written, with real affection for its cartoon characters, and it also delivered non-stop hilarious gags.

There have been several attempts to repeat that formula with movies such as Space Jam and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, but with very little success. As such, Looney Tunes: Back In Action is about three quarters of the way there – it’s inventive, frequently funny and captures the spirit of the original Bugs and Daffy cartoons, but it’s slightly let down by an appalling performance by Steve Martin and a plot that’s, literally, all over the place.

Daffy Duck Fired

Briskly directed by Joe Dante, the film stars Brendan Fraser as DJ Drake, a security guard and wannabe stuntman on the Warner Brothers lot. When humourless “VP of Comedy” Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) has Daffy Duck fired, she orders DJ to throw him off the premises and Daffy promptly gets DJ fired along with him.

They then discover that DJ’s movie star dad, action hero Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is, in fact, a real-life secret agent and is being held hostage by the sinister Mr Chairman (Steve Martin) of the nefarious Acme Corporation, who wants to know the location of the mysterious Blue Monkey Diamond.

DJ sets off to rescue his father and is reluctantly forced to let Daffy tag along. Meanwhile, the Warner Brothers decide to re-hire Daffy as a comic foil for superstar Bugs and Kate is ordered to bring him back or she’ll lose her job, so she and Bugs set off in hot pursuit.

Their madcap journey allows them to bump into pretty much the entire Warner Brothers stable and takes them to Vegas (Yosemite Sam’s casino), Area 52 (a top secret government facility cunningly disguised by the invention of Area 51 and run by Joan Cusack as ‘Mother’), Paris (the Louvre), Africa and finally, outer space.

Extremely Impressive Animation

There are lots of nice touches, including a treat for sci-fi fans in the shape of all the famous creatures (Robbie the Robot, the Fiend Without A Face etc) housed at Area 52 and a wonderful sequence in which Bugs and Daffy run through several famous paintings and even teach the audience about pointillism along the way.

Fraser is well cast, as his slightly odd features frequently make him look like a cartoon character anyway. Elfman is less fortunate – despite being a gifted comedienne, she’s stuck in the straight role and isn’t really given enough to do. There’s also great support from Dalton (looking like he’s loving every minute) and the always reliable Cusack, but Steve Martin’s performance is horribly misjudged and way over the top – he’s neither funny nor evil but just plain annoying and he almost spoils the film.

The animation is extremely impressive, but, more importantly, the film gets Bugs and Daffy (both brilliantly voiced by Joe Alaskey) exactly right, thankfully resisting the urge to modernise them in any way. There are also plenty of enjoyable ‘cameos’ that are bound to get laughs (such as an animated Scooby and Shaggy having dinner with Matthew Lillard and digital Scooby).

The film isn’t without its flaws – several gags don’t work, for instance (an extended bit of product placement is particularly galling), but Dante keeps them coming so thick and fast that it doesn’t matter all that much.

In short, this is a treat for kids and fans of the original Warner Brothers cartoons and at a svelte 90 minutes, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Not a Roger Rabbit-level classic but worth seeing nonetheless.

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Content updated: 09/12/2019 10:13

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