When you’ve been around for a while, you’re bound to repeat yourself. This is only expedited when you carve out a niche by giving your customers the same thing repeatedly. In 2003, Warner Brothers tried to bring fresh air in the aged but beloved animation offerings. The result was a savvy laugh out loud film that Brought the Looney Tunes: Back In Action.
Times have changed for Warner Brothers, and their animations are going to have to adapt to fit. This results in the termination of Daffy Duck, and subsequently the termination of Damian “D.J.” Drake, Jr. is the son of famed espionage star Damien Drake. When his father is kidnapped, D.J. and Daffy head out to Las Vegas to track him down, Meanwhile Kate Houghton, the exec who fired Daffy, is tasked with bringing him back. The group will run into colourful characters, good and bad, to stop an evil corporation, from acquiring a blue monkey.
While the majority of the brightest stars of Looney Tunes animated line-up makes an appearance. A lot of the heavy lifting is done by the live-action cast. Jemma Elfman playing a movie exec is incredibly trope-savvy and Brendan Fraser, playing a wannabe stuntman respectively enduring the brunt of the animated violence. They work well together and against Steve Martin, who is also a fun addition, and he feels like he’s channelling Martin Short in a lot of his performance. but, you also have Timothy Dalton doing a reference to his former limelight, 12 years before Birdman made it popular. You even have actors not only mocking themselves but running into their fictional counterparts.
The film is jam-packed with homages, references, and observations into Cinema’s rich history. The classic tropes that beholden in Blockbusters are lovingly sent up here. Joe Dante also throws references to his hit Gremlins like they are candy. The references to Dalton’s tenure as Bond. The film also manages to masterfully insert its cartoon characters into locations that feel natural to them, of course, Yosemite Sam has his own Casino, of course, Marvin the Martian is stuck in Area 52. It’s an added bonus to see the staple of British Sci-fi, The Daleks, included just based on the whims of the cast. The film narrows in on expectations and highlights and subverts them freely.
Looney Tunes Back In Action is a smart, energetic film that never forgets to be fun. A wily look at the magic of movies, that feels more aimed towards the adults in the audience than the children its marketing targeted. In a lot of ways feels like Rocky & Bullwinkle, or at least learnt enough from Rocky & Bullwinkle to be more palatable and timeless. With huge quantities of fun, you’d wonder why Looney Tunes was ever out of action in the first place.
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