Looney Tunes: Back in Action Movie Review

There's a scene near the end of Joe Dante's Looney Tunes movie where a beleaguered Wile E. Coyote ends up behind the wheel of a locomotive that's loaded to the gills with dynamite. Seconds before an explosion reduces him to a smoldering pile of ashes for the umpteenth time, he holds up a sign that reads, "They don't pay me enough."

My sentiments exactly, pal. The Federal Reserve couldn't pay you enough to sit through Technicolor gobbledygook like this. Dante has a technical feat on his hand, crafting a vigorous cartoon hybrid that seamlessly merges beloved Warner Bros. animated characters with unlucky C-list actors who apparently made their agents very angry and are being punished.

There's just no logical excuse to blend the worlds, no reason - beyond the obvious monetary gains - to blur the line between cartoon and reality. For those of you keeping score at home, the plot has something to do with the Blue Monkey, a diamond that, when used properly, can turn humans into chimps. The Chairman of the ACME Corporation (Steve Martin) wants to harness the power to turn innocent folks into cheap, mindless labor. He's racing to find the diamond before two former Warner Bros. employees (Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman) retrieve it.

Tunes strives for the surrealism of Roger Rabbit, yet delivers the entertainment equivalent of life inside a pinball machine. It's wall-to-wall combustible energy, powered by exhaustive car chases and endless cartoon-violent fistfights. Daffy Duck, the Harpo to Bugs' Groucho, takes more hits than a table full of blackjack players. Since no one can be injured or killed in this world, though, we really don't care who takes a beating and who dishes out the pain.

Dante finds bit parts for classic Warner characters like Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn. They interact with Joan Cusack and Heather Locklear, a beauty whose good looks appear to be in suspended animation. Fraser and Elfman are willing participants no matter how silly the requirements, and neither looks bored for too long. As the lecherous villain, Martin's not hand-drawn, but he's certainly animated.

Tunes just plays like a feature-length commercial. Pitches for Warner products compete with blatant Wal-Mart (!) plugs. Batman has a cameo, as does his Batmobile. Remember, kids, the new Bat movie comes out in 2005. We do get a laugh when Scooby Doo's laidback sidekick Shaggy chastises lanky Matthew Lillard for his over-the-top portrayal in last year's big-budget Scooby-Doo movie - produced by Warner Bros. See what I'm getting at? There's a common thread here, and you don't need to be holding Warner stock to appreciate it, though it certainly helps.

The last straw arrives when Bugs Bunny slips in a last-ditch plea for patrons to hit the concessions stands during the film's climactic raid on the ACME Corporation's headquarters. Parents were probably looking for an excuse to flee the theater, anyway. Why not drops a few bucks on a soda to wash down those Tylenol gelcaps?

Extras on DVD include deleted scenes (narrated by Bugs and Daffy), behind-the-scenes footage, and a Wile E. Coyote short film.

Did you hear the one about the duck and the rabbit in the woods?


Looney Tunes: Back in Action Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG, 2003


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