Melding the world of human beings and cartoon characters on the silver screen has been a horrendous and often disastrous task for filmmakers.
The biggest success and still the staple of this genre was the revolutionary 1988 film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” The film showed that humans and toons could interact given a good script and an understanding of the toons themselves.
Before Roger Rabbit, there were some successes like 1964’s “Mary Poppins“, 1971’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and 1977’s “Pete’s Dragon“. After Roger Rabbit, these kinds of movies were giant bombs or quickly forgotten duds like 1992’s “Cool World“, 2000’s “Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle“, and 2001’s “Monkeybone“. Warner Bros. saw limited success with 1996’s “Space Jam” and saw the potential to bring the likes of “Bugs Bunny” and “Daffy Duck” back to the big screen in a giant way.
In “Looney Tunes: Back in Action“, we discover that Daffy Duck is being over-shadowed by the star power of his rival Bugs Bunny. The studio decides to make a movie without Daffy and fires him. Daffy is irate when studio executive Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) is behind his dismissal. Daffy bumps into studio security officer DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser) who also seems to have been dismissed by the studio.
Upon arriving home, DJ and Daffy discover that DJ’s famous movie-star father (Timothy Dalton) has been kidnapped. It turns out DJ’s father had been moonlighting as a secret agent and had stumbled upon the whereabouts of the mysterious gem, The Blue Monkey. It’s up to Daffy and DJ to secure the gem before DJ’s father is killed by a maniac (Steve Martin). Meanwhile, Kate and Bugs seem to be in hot pursuit of DJ and Daffy with some news from the studio.
“Looney Tunes Back in Action” is clever, funny, delightful and hysterical.
The story of how all the characters get together is a little flat and the film is almost like an amusement park ride as we journey to different settings so that other toons can guest star. But if you love Looney Tunes then this film is sure to make you smile. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Unlike a lot of films from this genre, this film understands and welcomes what the toons are all about. They don’t give the toons complex emotions but just enough for us to understand why they are in our world.
The toons feel more real without damaging the iconic status that they are. I especially loved the film’s portrayal of Daffy Duck. He is by far the star of this movie. I loved how the film used the rivalry between Daffy and Bugs as a launching point to who these characters were in the film.
I also loved the performances of human beings as well, Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin pulled off a lot of their interaction scenes without missing a beat. The interaction wasn’t stale or out of place but gelled very well.
The biggest compliment I would like to bestow would be to director Joe Dante. I have been a big fan of his films for a while now. But taking a difficult movie like this and delivering so much fun is genius.
This film is just pure chaotic fun. This is the best of the genre since Roger Rabbit hands down. Cheers, Joe.
4 out of 5
So Says the Soothsayer.