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Looney Tunes: Back in Action

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
Looney Tunes: Back in Action

from Film Forum, 11/20/03

Director Joe Dante, famous for unleashing zany mayhem in the Gremlins franchise, has an even wackier bunch of characters on his hands this time around: the motley crew from Warner Brothers' classic cartoons. Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a mix of live-action and comedy that follows in the footsteps of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, and the rest of the famous gang make room for co-stars Jenna Elfman, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Steve Martin, Heather Locklear, and Joan Cusack in a plot that's almost too outrageous to describe.

I'll try: Daffy Duck is tired of being Bugs Bunny's sidekick in Warner Brothers productions. But when he cries "fowl", he finds himself unemployed and escorted off of the studio lot by a security guard named DJ Drake (Fraser). Thus, he is right in the thick of things when DJ discovers that his father (Dalton) has been kidnapped by the malevolent Mr. Chairman (Martin), president of the Acme Corporation. Apparently Drake Senior knows the location of the Blue Monkey Diamond, a powerful talisman that can … I give up. Plot was always a secondary feature of Looney Tunes cartoons, and according to critics, this feature-length cartoon is no exception.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "While young viewers will enjoy the zany onscreen antics, adults along for the ride will be equally entertained by the witty innuendo-laced dialogue—most of which will be lost on tykes too busy watching Daffy remove his own beak—and hidden humor."

Likewise, Tim Emmerich (Christian Spotlight) writes that it "provides cartoon fun and is mostly acceptable for families that have no issues with cartoonish violence."

Movieguide says it's "fun, frantic, and full of laughs." But the critic cautions us about the inclusion of "mystical, occult elements." (Apparently they're concerned that audiences could be deceived by the film's wacky invention of a Blue Diamond that can turn people into monkeys.) Further there are some "mildly crude scenes depicting body humor." (Bawdy, perhaps?)

Jimmy Akin (Decent Films) praises the film's faithfulness to the spirit and the details of the original cartoons. But the film's duration, he concludes, is a real problem. "In a seven-minute short, the plot can be something of an afterthought. You can just throw a bunch of gags at the audience with a loose, even absurd plot and the audience won't get bored. But you can't do this for ninety minutes."

"Parents," says Holly McClure (Crosswalk), "this is one of those movies that will probably entertain your little ones and may even amuse your older kids, but you'll be exhausted with all of the silliness."

Loren Eaton (Plugged In) says that it "makes up for its creative shortcomings by offering utterly hilarious cultural parodies."

Mainstream critics are taking turns either chuckling—or sometimes just chucking—the film.