Main cast: Brendan Fraser (DJ Drake), Jenna Elfman (Kate), Steve Martin (Chairman of Acme Corporation), Timothy Dalton (Damien Drake), Heather Locklear (Dusty Tails), and Joan Cusack (Mother)
Director: Joe Dante
The half-animated half-human-polluted movie Looney Tones: Back in Action is, while a mess, it isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It works better as an in joke on the Looney Tunes legacy than as an actual movie though. If you are not familiar with Bugs Bunny and gang as well as the history that taints as well as celebrates their legacy, if you don’t really care for unsubtle rips at overly politically-correct parents and product placements in children’s movies, chances are you won’t care about this one.
Set in a world where cartoon characters and humans live side-by-side (just think Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), this story begins with Daffy Duck getting very fed up with his buffoon/sidekick role and his constant second billing to Bugs Bunny. When he demands a pay rise and career upgrade at the Warner Bros staff meeting, new studio executive Kate fires him. When Bugs Bunny asks Daffy to be rehired and the Warner Bros staff conveniently blames Kate for Daffy’s sacking, Kate realizes that she has to find Daffy or she’ll be waitressing at the latest celebrity-endorsed restaurant in LA.
Meanwhile, Daffy gets into a hysterical fiasco with the studio security guard and aspiring stuntman DJ Drake, resulting in DJ being fired. Daffy, undaunted, tags along – since he’s now unemployed, he has all the time in the world to bug poor DJ. DJ however learns that his famous movie star father Damien Drake is in reality a secret agent and now Damien is captured by the evil Acme corporation. DJ will have to locate a diamond called the Blue Monkey, save his father, and stop Marvin the Martian from turning all humans into monkeys. Daffy is going to be there for the ride, whether DJ likes it or not, and hot on these twosome’s tail are Kate and of course, Bugs Bunny.
The movie starts out on a really weak leg, as the human players seem uncomfortable and stiff playing opposite the animated characters. Steve Martin’s truly irritating tic-ridden performance as the Chairman of Acme Corporation is what I sure will be the last straw that will send me retching and running out of the theatre. Fortunately, once DJ and Daffy crash Vegas, things improve tremendously. Heather Locklear’s cameo as a femme fatale is appropriately cool, Yosemite Sam is a hoot, and from thereon, the fun rarely stops.
This movie is a wealth of in jokes and satirical nudges. There’s a scene where Yosemite Sam’s henchman refuses to throw a lit dynamite out of the car because it will send the children the wrong message. Matthew Lillard has a cute cameo where he’s scolded by the cartoon Shaggy for what Shaggy deemed a misrepresentation in the movie version of Scooby-Doo. The scene where the movie drops a ridiculous Walmart product placement and the characters remark about the ridiculousness of it all is very inspired when one sees how this scene is executed. The scene where Daffy and Bugs are chased by Elmer Fudd in the Louvre and they flee into several well-known masterpieces has to be watched just to see how brilliant it is.
But while this movie is cute as an in joke, it’s not too coherent as a movie. Jenna Elfman is wooden for too long while Brendan Fraser is never given a chance to stretch his plastic comic face and physical goofiness. Joan Cusack is wasted. The real stars are the cartoon characters and while they are amusing, this movie is ninety-one minutes long and I soon wish that there’s something more to this movie that a mere stream of unending deliberate injokes and satirical elements. How about a story? Some character development? The fact that the human players are wasted, as opposed to how the human players fit well in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, also adds to my frustrations.
As an update of the Looney Tunes franchise, this movie could be worse. But it could be better too. Looney Tunes: Back in Action is worth a look if you – like me – remember those good old days of these cartoon creatures running amok on the TV screen and want something to celebrate as well as make fun of those days. Otherwise, it’s probably best to catch this one when they show it on TV.