LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION
When Daffy Duck (voice of Joe Alaskey), resisting the role of loser to Bugs Bunny’s (voice of Joe Alaskey) eternal smiling and unfazed winner is fired from the studio by Warner Bros VP Comedy (Jenna Elfman), he is to be escorted off the lot by security guard DJ (Brendan Fraser). He attaches himself to the hapless DJ, who soon learns that his actor father (Timothy Dalton), famous for spy roles, is actually a real spy, and in deadly danger while in pursuit of the Blue Diamond. This stone can turn humans into apes and back again, and the Chairman of ACME (Steve Martin) plans to satellite-beam its nasty effect onto earth to forever change humans into monkeys. Unless DJ and Daffy and Bugs can stop him.
Review by Louise Keller:
Not since Roger Rabbit played pat-a-cake with Jessica, has live action been so compellingly integrated with animation. Looney Tunes is one helluva clever film. And a delightfully entertaining one! ‘Live the adventure’ says Daffy Duck, and indeed we do, in this rollicking, splendi-looney of an adventure starring a menagerie of all our favourite Warner Bros characters, jumbled together in an avalanche of colour, pizzazz and slapstick. It’s an action thriller, a romantic comedy, an animated extravaganza all rolled into one.
Enjoyable on different levels (depending on your expertise in cartoon characters), the pleasures are enormous as we are sucked into this vaudevillian world for non-stop zany action, as the cartoon world, the movie world and the real world collide. Or who’s to say which is the real world? The wonderful thing about Looney Tunes, is that it allows us to soar high in the clandestine clouds of wildly inspired innovation.
We first meet up with lovable carrot-chomping Bugs Bunny and the dastardly devilish Daffy Duck cooped up in an executive meeting in the Warner Bros backlot. ‘Legends like me shouldn’t have to play second fiddle to Bugs,’ says Daffy, feeling most dithpicable when fired from the studio. But that’s just the start of the adventure, as we join Bugs, Daffy, stuttering swine Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, cutie Tweety Bird and Sylvester the Cat, plus the absolutely brilliant Brendan Fraser, who can make us believe so easily that it is the most natural thing in the world to be cajoling a rabbit and developing a relationship with a difficult duck. ‘He is the Cary Grant of our times’ says producer Paula Weinstein; Fraser manages to steal the film, and that’s saying something, when up against the talents of some of the greatest cartoon characters of all time. Jenna Elfman is terrific in a role that might have been played twenty years ago by Jamie Lee Curtis.
We journey from the bright lights and dazzle of Las Vegas to the style of the Louvre in Paris, followed by a trek through the deepest jungles in Africa – all in the twinkle of an eye. Some of the highlights are the scenes in the Louvre, when cartoon characters let loose in the art-lined corridors and immerse themselves in the surreal world of Dali. Steve Martin, with red hair, tight suit with short legs and sneakers (looking a little like a deranged Harrison Ford) makes a bizarre over-the-top Acme villain, and I love the ‘unzip’ effects, when one character ‘unzips’ itself from another’s disguise. Joan Cusack is wonderful as The Mother and Timothy Dalton’s casting works like a charm.
Director Joe Dante is absolutely in his element, as characters from historic Warner Bros toons make their presence felt. Filled with one-liners that will have you bursting with happiness, Looney Tunes is a real treat, for everyone who loves the world of cartoons.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Of course you realise it was always meant to be spoken, to sound like Looney Toons – as in cartoons. But Looney was and is the operative word. So if you are old enough to remember the newsreel cinemas that screened the Warner Bros cartoons after the newsreel ran out, you’ll be thrilled to be able to go the cinema again and see Bugs Bunny do battle with arch enemy Daffy Duck, who dresses in black. Guess who’s the loser.
To bring ‘em back in contempo cinema terms, Bugs and Daffy have had to hire some supports, in the shape of Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Joan Cusack, Heather Locklear and Timothy Dalton, the latter spoofing his Bond persona in one of the many jibes and jives that are scattered throughout this chuckle-a-thon. It may be a tad too long, but for toon junkies it’s a blast.
Stay alert for the myriad of sight gags and character assassinations that propel the film with tremendous energy; the script is sparkling, but the action’s sparklinger, with the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote the Tasmanian Devil, Speedy Gonzales, Grannie and Tweety Bird and others adding to the mayhem. And just as amazingly, director Joe Dante has retained the Warner Bros stamp of edgy humour that mirrors human imperfections so satisfyingly. There is also the vintage inventiveness, like the chase scene through Dali’s famous bent time painting in the Louvre, a brilliant concept superbly executed as the characters take on the characteristics of the painting.
Not since Who Framed Roger Rabbit have real actors had so much fun staring at blank spaces to be filled in later by animators – and not since then have we had so much fun.
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LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (G)
CAST: Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton, Heather Locklear, Joan Cusack, Bill Goldberg, Don Stanton, Dan Stanton and the voices of Joe Alaskey, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Bob McKimson
PRODUCER: Allison Abbate, Christopher deFaria, Bernie Goldmann, Joel Simon, Paula Weinstein
DIRECTOR: Joe Dante
SCRIPT: Larry Doyle
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Cundey
EDITOR: David L. Bertman, Rick Finney, Marshall Harvey, Jason Tucker
MUSIC: Jerry Goldsmith (plus John Debney, John Frizzell)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Brzeski
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 11, 2003