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Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Space Jam (1996) is a crime against both humanity and the Looney Tunes — it makes Bugs Bunny and company play second fiddle to Michael Jordan, while also not being very Looney Tune-y. And though Jam was moderately successful at the box office, it didn't match the fortunes of the Disney-made Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Thus, besting the Mouse House seems the impetus for Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) or, as the DVD box suggests, Looney Tunes: Back in Action: The Movie. Since Space Jam was a crudely made launch of Michael Jordan's possible acting career (a bullet thankfully avoided), it seems the producers choose the opposite direction with this film, hiring movie nerd Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), who already made a Looney Tunes-inspired movie with his sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Dante is a brilliant choice for the material, but the production was troubled, and by the time it was released it disappeared without much fanfare (The film's budget is listed as $80 million, while it barely grossed $20 million). After seeing the movie, it's easy to understand why: The target audience of the picture is people like Joe Dante — fans who enjoy seeing silly homages to the films (bad and good) they love. Brendan Fraiser stars as DJ, a security guard at the WB who lives in the shadow of his Bond-ish movie-star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton). It seems Daffy Duck is sick of being stepped on, so after making unreasonable demands he gets fired by the VP of Comedy, Kate (Jenna Elfman), after which DJ must escort Daffy out. But Daffy being Daffy, he creates a havoc that gets DJ fired. Daffy follows DJ home and while there they both discover that Damian is not just a movie-theater spy, but also is a real one who needs his son's help to foil evil mastermind Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin), the head of the ACME Corporation. Damian's words send DJ and Daffy on a hunt that sends them to Las Vegas to meet Dusty Tails (Heather Locklear). But Looney Tunes aren't funny without Daffy to take some abuse, so the Brothers Warner (Twins Don and Dan Stanton) send Kate to get Daffy back — or else. In her quest she's joined by Bugs, and the four team up in Vegas and then bounce from Area 52 (the "real" Area 51, which houses Robby the Robot, Daleks, The Man from Planet X, Ro-Man, and a fiend without a face, among others), to Paris, and then to Africa to find a blue diamond that can turn people into monkeys. Like the cartoons themselves, the plot is incidental, only there to set up a string of gags and "do you get it?" moments. To wit, the trip to Paris includes Jerry Lewis jokes, homages to A Man and A Woman, Band of Outsiders, The Red Balloon, Madeline, and features a bravado sequence in which Daffy and Bugs are chased by Elmer Fudd through numerous famous paintings (to which the characters start resembling the art in them). Most of the jokes aren't laugh-out-loud funny, but the film manages to be endearing because the main character is Daffy, who's finally set up to get his chance to be the main character, and the numerous Joe Dante regulars' cameos (from Dick Miller to Vernon Wells) and the obscure Looney Tunes characters that pop up (like the Peter Lorre caricature). Warner presents Looney Tunes: Back in Action in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include the "making-of" featurette "Behind the Tunes" (9 min.), "Bang Crash Boom" (8 min.), which follows the effects process, "Looney Tunes Out of Action" (11 min.), a collection of deleted scenes and the alternate opening and ending, and the new Looney Tunes Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short "The Whizzard of Ow." Theatrical trailer, snap-case.

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