When I was a kid, Saturday mornings were something special. I’d get a heaping bowl of my favorite sugar coated, tooth rotting, hyperactivity causing cereal and I’d settle down on the floor in front of the television for a mammoth session of brain rot. Looney Tunes: Back In Action brings those days back full force with such side spitting humor that I felt like I should have asked the concession stand for a box of Fruit Loops, some milk and a huge throw pillow to flop on the floor. Oh. And an Ace bandage to wrap my ribs with after I’d herniated something from laughing so hard.
Remember when Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd spent all their time being violent and politically incorrect? Well, they’re back and more rude, crude, and incorrigible than ever. They are even helped along by Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Timothy Dalton, and Steve Martin (in a truly hilarious takeoff as the ACME company chairman.).
It appears that everybody loves Bugs, but Daffy only appeals to overweight men who live in their parent’s basements. So Kate Houghton, (Jenna Elfman), the humorless VP of Comedy, gets him fired. Brendan Fraser is DJ, a failed stuntman and son of famed spy movie icon Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) who gets fired from his job as a Warner Brothers movie lot security guard while trying to apprehend the just fired Daffy Duck in a spectacular scene involving the famous water tower, the Batmobile and a classic sports car.
Suddenly things turn bizarre when DJ‘s father not only plays a spy in the movies, but is one in real life. Talk about your deep cover. He calls on his son for help, telling him to come to Vegas and keep the ACME Chairman (Steve Martin) from getting the mysterious Blue Monkey diamond. Daffy comes along for the ride and Bugs and Kate follow so that they can rehire Daffy. (It appears that none of the movies work without Daffy getting blown up. Go figure)
But lets be real here. The plot doesn’t matter. What matters here is the complete lunacy going on in this movie. From the very beginning, this movie throws more gags and jokes than the human mind can absorb in one sitting. Action happens in the foreground, but the background is just as rich and humorous. One scene in a restaurant comes to mind with Porky Pig sitting with Speedy Gonzalez. Porky had been told he needed to get rid of his stutter, but without it he wasn’t funny. “I hate political correctness” Porky sighs. “Si. Me too, Amigo” commiserates Speedy.
The inside jokes and innuendo fly left and right in this movie, so go in prepared shriek in surprised laughter some of these jokes. The scene where the animated Shaggy and Scooby Do yell at Matthew Lillard for his turn as the live action Shaggy (“You made me into a total dope, man!” “I’m so sorry! I was just trying to do you credit.”) is just the beginning. The genius in this movie is in the details. The Wal-Mart product placement shtick is brilliant and says so much about current day movie making. Also, pay attention to the signs in Paris, the statues in Africa, the programs that show on the video as Steve Martin tries to find his secret satellite network and the names of the Chairmen of the Board at ACME (I swear to you, one of them is Wayne Newton).
The animation is wonderful, light years above the mess that was Space Jam and even goes into true art during a chase scene through several paintings in the Lourve (The trip through the Dali painting almost made me loose control of my personal functions, I was laughing so hard) and in a cut by cut imitation of the shower scene from Psycho including the chocolate syrup. The animated cameos include Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe LePew, Yosemite Sam and his cowboy henchmen, that dumb vulture thingie, the Warner Brothers Frog, the Tasmanian Devil, and more. The human cameos are almost as good with Heather Locklear (truly disturbing when dancing around in a show girl outfit surrounded by midgets with Yosemite Sam masks… truly), Michael Jordan, and countless others.
Joan Cusack also has to be mentioned in her hilarious turn as “Mom” in Area 52 (a government base so secret they made up Area 51 to cover for it. It has a small sign on one wall “Area 52: Proudly keeping secrets from the American people for 75 years!”) which holds every single monster from every single shlocky sci-fi midnight feature from the 50’s as well as two Daleks (I squealed out loud when I saw them), the flying brains from that really, really bad movie with…well the flying brains, and Marvin the Martian. They’re kept in giant mason jars with the holes in the lids, by the way, and the secret code to the armory safe door is “77777”. I know this because it was on a Post-It note on top of the keypad.
As for the human actors, I must admit to a soft spot for Brendan Fraser ever since George Of The Jungle (Yes, George does look darn good in Armani), and he’s continued that deft self-depreciating comedic touch in this movie. He doesn’t seem to mind being second fiddle to an animated duck and rabbit. Jenna Elfman is alright, but she doesn’t stand out much. Steve Martin on the other hand plays his character with manic abandon. He’s fun to watch as he Mwah-ha-ha-ha-has so deeply he nearly falls over backwards.
But forget about them. The real stars are Bugs and Daffy. How could anyone hope to compete with their star power? This is a rare gem of a movie, an enjoyable family film that pleases all ages. Looney Tunes: Back in Action keeps both adults and children laughing, but at completely different things. Actually, upon reflection, that is just like the original Looney Tunes cartoons.
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