Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: "Looney Tunes: Back in Action" is Surprisingly Quite Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 166 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
Running time:  91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild language and innuendo
DIRECTOR:  Joe Dante with Eric Goldberg (animation director)
WRITER:  Larry Doyle
PRODUCERS:  Bernie Goldmann, Joel Simon, and Paula Weinstein
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dean Cundey (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Rick W. Finney and Marshall Harvey
COMPOSER:  Jerry Goldsmith


Starring:  Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton, Heather Locklear, John Cleese, Joan Cusack, Bill Goldberg, Dan Stanton, Don Stanton, Matthew Lillard, Ron Perlman, and (voices) Joe Alaskey, Bob Bergen, Casey Kasem, Frank Welker, Billy West, with (receiving no screen credit) Peter Graves and Michael Jordan

The subject of this movie review is Looney Tunes: Back in Action, a 2003 adventure and comedy film from director Joe Dante.  Back in Action blends live-action and animation and stars Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters.  In the movie, the Looney Tunes help a down-on-his-luck security guard find his missing father and the mythical Blue Monkey diamond.

Right out of the box, let’s proclaim Looney Tunes: Back in Action a fantastically funny film, almost as good as the gold standard of films that mix live action and animation, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and better than Space Jam.  It’s not dumb and hackneyed as some have claimed; nor is it a cynical attempt to market Time Warner trademarks and merchandise.  Just about anyone who has ever loved the Looney Tunes characters will love this film.

As simple and as silly as it is, LT:BIA’s story ends up making a very funny film.  Daffy Duck (Joe Alaskey) is having another of his many conniptions about his status as second banana to Bugs Bunny (Joe Alaskey), but this time Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman), an eager young Warner Bros. Studio executive fires Daffy.  Daffy’s shenanigans also cost a studio lot guard, DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser), his job.

Later Daffy and DJ discover that DJ’s dad, Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton), the famous spy movie star, is actually a real life spy.  He’s been kidnapped and is being held hostage in Las Vegas.  Via a special spy signal, he asks his son to find the Blue Monkey Diamond and keep it from the evil Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin), head of the Acme Corporation, who wants to use the diamond’s mystical powers to turn everyone on the planet into monkeys.  It’s up to DJ, Kate, Bugs, and Daffy to find the jewel, rescue DJ’s dad, and save the world.

The films is technically well made, and the merger of animation and live action is easily on par, if not superior to Roger Rabbit.  Joe Dante (Gremlins), no stranger to special effects and genre films, does a fantastic job prepping his film, especially its stars, to act with characters and effects that would only be added after the principal photography was finished.  Animation director Eric Goldberg has also done some of the best helming of animated film in years.  It’s the best work this year by a director of animation after the Finding Nemo crew, which is clearly evident in the Bugs/Daffy/Elmer Fudd (Billy West) surrealistic and imaginatively designed race through the Louvre in Paris.

The cast of actors is fantastic.  Brendan Fraser is an underrated actor, movie star, and comedian.  He’s excellent with physical comedy, and by now has a knack for working in an environment where a lot of the film elements are added after he does his work.  Jenna Elfman is a pleasant surprise, and she has excellent chemistry with her costars, live and animated.

The films gets a hardy recommendation because it’s such fun.  The fact that almost all major and minor characters that have ever appeared in a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon have a part in the film makes it a must see.  There’s even a small scene that plugs 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2, and if that’s not enough for certain moviegoers, then, they are indeed in need of a laugh.  Looney Tunes: Back in Action is just what the doctor ordered.

8 of 10

Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

No comments:

Post a Comment