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Warner Home Video presents
Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)

"I'm glad I was fired. In a few days, they'll be kissing my be-feathered rump, begging me to come back. But I won't!"
- Daffy Duck

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: March 01, 2004

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Timothy Dalton, Joan Cusack, Heather Locklear
Other Stars: Peter Graves, Jeff Gordon, Kevin McCarthy
Director: Joe Dante

MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and innuendo
Run Time: 01h:31m:19s
Release Date: March 02, 2004
UPC: 085392880423
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C-A-B+ B

DVD Review

Looney Tunes: Back in Action merges the zany world of Warner Brothers cartoons with the equally wacky reality of Hollywood movie people a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. The results are only mildly satisfying, but Joe Dante's high-energy romp tickles the funny bone as it overloads our senses with color, combustion, and crazy antics. In terms of panache and artistry, Back in Action can't compete with its Disney predecessor, but witnessing the full-fledged comeback of this lovably irreverent band of loony 'toons is reason enough to celebrate.

Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck share top billing with Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, and Steve Martin, but Looney Tunes lovers will enjoy the frequent cameos by the rest of the Merrie Melodies gang, with such classic characters as Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Tweety Bird and Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, and Speedy Gonzalez, among many others, popping up periodically. It's a shame, though, these animated icons aren't given more to do, because their human co-stars often buckle under the weight of this overblown production. In this type of film, we expect the live performers to act a lot like their cartoon cousins, but it's easier to accept such lame-brained silliness from animated characters than overly animated actors. In a competition between the two, Bugs and Daffy win hands down, yet the rest of the Warner crew unfortunately remains on the sidelines. And instead of being allowed to revel in the 'toons boisterous banter, we're pummeled by a barrage of unnecessary action movie clichés.

The story begins amiably enough, but soon becomes mired in technological chicanery and a plethora of subplots. Daffy Duck initially stirs things up by expressing outrage at continually playing second banana to studio golden boy Bugs Bunny, especially with regard to salary. He throws a tantrum at a Warner production meeting, which results in his formal firing by studio vice president Elfman. Daffy doesn't go quietly, however, so Elfman engages security guard and aspiring stuntman DJ Drake (Fraser) to track down the delinquent duck and escort him off the lot. But DJ has his own problems. The dastardly chairman of Acme Corp. (Steve Martin) has kidnapped DJ's father, renowned actor Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton in a wicked spoof of his James Bond image), and hopes to use Damien's precious and supernaturally charged Blue Monkey gem for his own nefarious purposes. Daffy and DJ motor to (where else?) Las Vegas to try and save Damien, while Elfman and Bugs follow in hot pursuit. It seems the brothers Warner now regret letting Daffy go and want Elfman to woo him back—or else join him on the unemployment line.

Movie buffs will especially relish the film's many subtle and blatant references to Hollywood classics, with a shot-by-shot recreation of the shower scene in Psycho (with Bugs in the Janet Leigh part) the definite highlight. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies and Invasion of the Body Snatchers also receive a ribbing, and such diverse personalities as Heather Locklear, Joan Cusack, Peter Graves, Kevin McCarthy, and NASCAR's Jeff Gordon contribute memorable comic bits.

All the frenetic activity, however, is little more than a vain attempt to mask the weak, overly broad, and muddled story. There's way too much going on in the film's kamikaze plot, and Dante employs a kitchen sink filmmaking style, undoubtedly hoping a barrage of special effects and explosions will distract us from the film's deficiencies. To a great extent, his plan works, for after a while I just gave up trying to follow the convoluted story and concentrated on the jokes and gimmicks instead—which is what my far more savvy kids did from the start.

Back in Action caters to kids, and its rapid-fire delivery keeps their attention riveted. The film seamlessly integrates the cartoon and human worlds, thus fulfilling a common childhood fantasy of interacting and coexisting with animated friends. Adults will enjoy walking down memory lane with their Looney Tunes heroes, but the film can't duplicate the clever verbal interplay and inspired settings of the classic Warner shorts. Still, it's great to see Bugs and company back in vogue and wreaking their patented brand of havoc on the human world.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Looney Tunes: Back in Action looks as clean and colorful as a pristine cartoon, with vibrant hues, excellent contrast, and crystal clarity predominating in Warner's widescreen anamorphic transfer. The image is often so lifelike, it exhibits a 3-D quality that allows the actors and 'toons to leap off the screen. Smooth and crisp from start to finish, this transfer satisfies across the board.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 mix possesses plenty of pop, although more intense surround effects would provide a richer sonic experience. Explosions and jet propulsion fuel the bass frequencies, and stereo separation is quite effective across the front channels. Dialogue is almost always comprehendible, but details are often lost during the heavy action sequences, when the track disintegrates into a disjointed cacophony.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
10 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
3 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. All-new Looney Tunes cartoon
Extras Review: Warner delivers a healthy set of supplements sure to entertain the entire family. The fun begins with Behind the Tunes, a behind-the-scenes look at life on the Back in Action set hosted by Bugs and Daffy. Segments on the film's sets, props, flashy cars, actors, and animation offer plenty of production trivia. The eight-and-a-half-minute featurette also includes interviews with director Joe Dante, Brendan Fraser, and other personnel, all of whom participate in the running gag of dissing Daffy, much to the duck's chagrin.

Bang, Crash, Boom! reveals the secrets behind the film's special effects and how the animation is seamlessly integrated into the live action. Bugs and Daffy narrate this informative seven-minute featurette that shows the intricacies of the process and the difficulties the live actors face. Looney Tunes Out of Action: Best Scenes You've Never Seen spoofs Mystery Science Theater 3000 as it presents a montage of deleted clips and scenes (including the original abandoned opening and alternate ending) in a movie theater setting with Bugs and Daffy offering running and often sarcastic commentary. While the barbs Bugs and Daffy fling are often amusing in this 10-minute compilation, the scenes work better when viewed in their entirety, care of the weblink described below.

The all-new Looney Tunes cartoon, Whizzard of Ow, showcases the chirping Road Runner and ever-frustrated and abused Wile E. Coyote in a typically violent but lighthearted romp across the desert Southwest. Wile becomes endowed with magical powers, but his supernatural strength and spells still can't outwit his speedy prey.

Finally, a weblink connects viewers to the full-length versions of 10 deleted scenes (including the original opening and ending) that are presented in truncated form on the main disc. Many sequences include more of the patented Looney Tunes repartée that the movie itself often lacks, which makes their deletion a shame.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

While it's fun to see the Looney Tunes characters enter the new millennium, I still prefer Warner's original cartoon classics. But for Bugs and Daffy fans thirsting for fresh material, Looney Tunes: Back in Action certainly suffices. Kids especially will be captivated by this frenzied farce, prompting enough replays to warrant a purchase.


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