Brendan Fraser as DJ Drake/Tazmanian Devil
Jenna Elfman as Kate Houghton
Steve Martin as Mr. Chairman
Timothy Dalton as Damien Drake
Heather Locklear as Dusty Tails
Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck/Tweety Pie/Sylvester/Marvin the Martian (voice)
Bob Bergen as Porky Pig (voice)
Joan Cusack as Mother
Robert Picardo as Acme Vice-President
Dan Stanton as Mr. Warner’s Brother
Don Stanton as Mr. Warner
Billy West as Elmer Fudd (voice)
Tom Woodruff Jr. as The Metaluna Mutant
Mary Woronov as Acme Board Member
Looney Tunes: Back In Action has a few shining moments of hilarity, but overall it’s not as good as it could have been.
DJ Drake is a Warner Brothers Studios security guard (and part time stuntman). After a mishap trying to throw a recently fired Daffy Duck off of the lot, he ends up being fired as well. To make matters worse, DJ finds out that his father, Damien Drake, is in trouble. Damien is not only a world famous actor from spy movies, but he’s also secretly a real life spy. He was on a mission to recover a magical diamond called The Blue Monkey. It has the power to turn humans into monkeys and the head of the ACME Corporation wants it for his own diabolical plans. With Damien now captured by Acme’s goons, it’s up to DJ to take over his mission and save his father. Of course, Daffy Duck tags along for the ride.
Meanwhile, WB executive Kate Houghton is in trouble for firing Daffy Duck. The only way she can save her job is to bring Daffy Duck back. She hits the road with Bugs Bunny in order to find them. Soon enough Kate and Bugs are wrapped up in the spy hi-jinks and the quest to find The Blue Monkey.
Looney Tunes: Back In Action is rated PG for some mild language and innuendo.
Looney Tunes: Back In Action is at its best when it is doing little side jokes and cameos. For example, in one scene you see the cartoon Shaggy and Scooby chewing out Matthew Lillard for his portrayal of Shaggy in the live action Scooby-Doo film. In another scene you see Daffy Duck storm off a set of a Batman movie and take off in the Batmobile. Later on, after an unexpected flood, we see Bugs Bunny in a boat with a fishing pole declare, “Hey! I found Nemo!” It’s scenes like these that make the film most fun.
I also liked the other numerous references from other movies. A scene in a laboratory features a ton of classic sci-fi movie monsters that are cool to see. Bugs Bunny also recreates the classic shower scene from Psycho (though many children in the audience didn’t get it). The whole movie is also more or less a parody of a James Bond film. In a nice bit of casting, they brought in Timothy Dalton to play the James Bond-like character of the film. The movie also concludes with some nice tips of the hat to Star Wars as Bugs and Marvin The Martian get in a lightsaber battle (while Bugs reads “The Force For Dummies”).
I’ve noticed that over the years Bugs Bunny has changed from a wacky, silly cartoon character to a smug corporate logo. The new Bugs isn’t nearly as funny as the old Bugs. Fortunately, the creators of Looney Tunes: Back In Action seem to agree. The Bugs Bunny in this film is much sillier and wackier than he has been for a long time. Dressing in drag, screaming incoherently, and mocking not only others but himself, he’s back in top form. I found him a lot more entertaining than he has been in a while. I also have to say it was fun to see the Coyote back again in top (?) form. He was always one of my favorites and he gets a fair amount of attention in the story.
Another person who undergoes a dramatic change is Steve Martin. He drops his serious persona in order to revert to his “Wild And Crazy” days. His ACME character reminds me a lot of his Ruprecht character from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. While it’s by no means his best performance (and quite honestly, he’s often annoying), it’s still fun to see him cut loose a bit. It certainly looks like he’s having a good time playing the character.
The animation isn’t anything special. Roger Rabbit did a better job merging live action and animation. However, there is one scene that is quite unique. As Daffy, Bugs, and Elmer Fudd run through the Louvre, they jump from classic painting to classic painting. As they do this their animation changes to the style of the painting. It’s quite clever and one of the more memorable scenes from the movie.
What Didn’t Work:
Before screening Looney Tunes: Back In Action, every person I talked to said they thought the film was going to stink based on the trailers. I didn’t necessarily think this was the case and I was willing to give the movie a chance. After all, I’ve seen movies with bad trailers end up being pretty good. Well, this time I was wrong.
Despite a good director, good actors, and classic cartoon characters as co-stars, the movie never really clicked. The plot seemed really disjointed as if it was pieced together like Frankenstein. It almost seemed like one executive said, “Let’s have Bugs in space!” Another said, “Let’s have him in the jungle!” Another said, “How about a spy movie!” Another said, “What about in Las Vegas?” Another said, “What about France??” Then the Warner Brothers themselves said, “Let’s do it all!” It’s that kind of disjointed logic that ends up making the overall plot itself disjointed.
The movie has other problems as well. Many great actors have cameo roles in the movie only to be pushed aside. Ron Perlman (Hellboy) plays an ACME Board member. He looks bored (no pun intended) through every scene he’s in while Steve Martin hams it up in the foreground. He ends up having two lines in the whole movie. The same goes with Robert Picardo as another board member. Then Heather Locklear pops up in a bizarre dance number with a bunch of midgets dressed as Yosemite Sam. Overall, she’s not impressive.
And as much as I like Brendan Fraser, Steve Martin, and Jenna Elfman, I thought the cartoon characters (the real attraction of the movie) kept being pushed aside in favor of the live actors. You don’t go to a Looney Tunes movie to watch live actors, yet they dominate the screen for most of the time. They especially get less screentime as the whole spy story develops.
The Warner Brothers Studio also seems to promote itself way too much in its own movie. Everything from their executives to their studio tours to their other movies are highlighted so much in the movie that it seems more like a commercial for the studio rather than a feature film. It was a bit too much self-promotion for my tastes.
Finally, a minor nitpick on my part but a complaint nevertheless. The French and Europeans always accuse Americans of being ignorant of the rest of the world and this movie further perpetuates that stereotype. As the heroes go to France, they enter an obvious studio set that’s a poor substitute for the Louvre. Anybody that’s ever been there can tell you it looks nothing like the historical museum. Then not only is the Mona Lisa the wrong size, they show paintings that aren’t even in that particular museum. Then as they run out the door, the Eiffel Tower looms immediately next door. Again, if you’ve been there it’s completely wrong. They could of at least used real stock footage from Paris. (Then again, I’m complaining about realism in a movie with cartoon characters. Go figure.)
The Bottom Line:
Looney Tunes: Back In Action is a hit and miss film with a lot more misses than hits. Still, if you need a movie to take the kids to it’s not the worst film you could be subjected to.