Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)

looney tunes IMDb

Any kid who grew up in the 1990s will no doubt have fond memories of the Looney Tunes. Thanks to the mega successful Space Jam, Bugs Bunny and friends had a sort of renaissance. The Looney Tunes were everywhere– on clothing, school supplies, television. Of course, I was watching these cartoons long before this thanks to my grandfather, who was a big fan from their invention. But it was still nice seeing them get a second life decades after they first appeared on movie screens.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action was meant to usher in a third wave of popularity for the franchise. After the mid-90s these cartoons faded away again, as all pop culture things do. However, bringing them back into the spotlight isn’t a crazy idea. There’s a timeless humor to these characters, but they’re also very adaptable. This movie may have bombed, but it’s certainly not Bugs or Daffy’s fault.

This movie isn’t terrible. It’s average, but when it comes to non-Disney or Pixar kids movies that’s where my bar is set. There are plenty of sight gags, sarcasm, and slapstick humor– basically everything you’d expect from the Looney Tunes. It’s actually fun to watch, thanks to the human cast committing to the wacky story and their cartoon costars. Brendan Fraser particularly looks like he’s having fun, even providing the voice for the Tasmanian Devil. And of course Steve Martin is great in every movie he’s ever been in, no matter how stupid.

By all accounts Looney Tunes: Back in Action shouldn’t have bombed. I blame this on a terrible release date (November, instead of the original summer release) and the fact that it was given almost no promotion.

Rating: C

The Looney Tunes will always have a special place in my psyche. I grew up watching their cartoons and they never failed to make a young eight year old smile. Road Runner and Taz were my favourites, but they all had their moments. When this new adventure was released, I was excited to see what the new millennium would bring for my favourite cartoon characters. Short answer is, they’re ok. There are some laughs to be had in this movie, but considering the cast involved and that this is Bugs freakin’ Bunny, I did expect a little bit more.

The story opens at Warner Brothers Studios. The film company is trying to reinvent the Looney Tunes characters, and that means, according to new senior VP Kate (Jenna Elfman), getting rid of Daffy Duck. When he is outraged at this decision, Kate has him kicked out of the studio, and Daffy causes a scene. Caught up in this ruckus is security guard DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser). DJ is fired by Kate after he fails to stop Daffy from going nuts. When the execs see the new Looney Tunes movie without Daffy, they insist he appears. Kate has to find the duck or lose her job. The problem is, DJ and Daffy have been caught up in one of DJ’s dad’s spy adventures to find the blue monkey diamond. Kate and Bugs must track DJ and Daffy all over the globe and convince Daffy to star in their new movie, and also stop the evil Mr Chairman (Steve Martin) from finding the blue monkey diamond and turning the human race into a bunch of mindless monkeys.

This film is funny, but never really captures the magic that was there in the old cartoons. There is a great cast of big names in this film and I probably expected a little bit more from them. Brendan Fraser was a huge star when this came out, having had huge hits with The Mummy franchise. He is as charismatic as he usually is here. Fun fact, he also provided the voice of the Tasmanian Devil in this film. Apparently he did an impression on set and the director thought he was so good, they made him do it for the movie. Jenna Elfman is someone who has never really grabbed me. I found her sitcom Dharma & Greg really overrated. Not much about this film changed my opinion of her.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a half-hearted attempt to revitalise the Looney Tunes franchise. It was originally going to be a sequel to the massive hit Space Jam, but they could not get Michael Jordan to agree to be in it. The film went through several drafts after losing Jordan. The film is ok, but it was marketed so poorly that it failed to attract any new viewers or bring the old ones back. It is a shame because I feel like there is still an appetite for Bugs Bunny and his cohorts. What it needs is something like what Jason Segel did to the Muppets to breathe new life into it.

Rating: C

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