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Looney Tunes: Back in Action (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Documentary: 'Bang, Crash, Boom' special effects documentary! Easter egg: Yosemite Sam with TNT. Featurette: 'Behind The Toons' featurette hosted by Daffy Duck; M Kids music video; Looney Tunes Out of Action - best scenes you've ever seen; Looney Tunes short - 'Wizard of Ow'; Theatrical trailer.

THE child in every adult will probably feel like rushing to see their favourite Looney Tunes characters back on the big screen, but they may emerge afterwards asking the age-old question, ‘what’s up Doc?’

For while the film will certainly delight the very young, with its childish mix of slapstick and destruction, the adults are certain to feel a little sore at the number of missed opportunities.

And while certainly not as tedious as Space Jam, the mix of human and cartoon interaction still fails to meet the standards set by Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, lending it a somewhat lazy, half-hearted feel.

Things start brightly enough, as Brendan Fraser’s studio security guard, DJ Drake, gets into all manner of awkward situations while trying to keep the recently-fired Daffy Duck under control, but they quickly veer into hum-drum territory, when the plot begins to concentrate on DJ’s actor father, Damien (Timothy Dalton), a big screen super-spy, who gets kidnapped by mysterious assailants.

Hence, DJ must travel to Las Vegas, with Daffy in tow, in search of the Blue Monkey Diamond, before the evil Mr Chairman (Steve Martin), of the Acme Corporation, is able to use it for his own mischievous ends.

Supporting and hindering DJ in equal measure are Jenna Elfman’s studio executive, Kate, who has been dispatched to retrieve Daffy at any cost, and Bugs Bunny, who is simply along for the ride.

Back in Action works best when trading on in-jokes and using its cartoon characters to maximum effect, but its successes merely serve to highlight how bad the rest of the film is, especially when it relies on the humans for laughs.

Fraser, to be fair, comes off best, but Dalton looks embarrassed to be trading off his James Bond persona, Elfman is mere eye-candy and Martin is abysmal as the villain of the piece, delivering the type of performance which has the effect of some fingernails being scraped along a blackboard.

The story, too, isn’t strong enough to sustain the length of the movie, which leaves viewers counting down the minutes in between the introduction of each new Looney Tune favourite.

Needless to say, segments involving Wile E. Coyote, The Tasmanian Devil, and Yosemite Sam raise the biggest laughs, while a breakfast meeting, on the back lot of the Warner Bros studio, in which the animated Scooby-Do is seen to chastise Matthew Lillard for his vocal interpretation of Shaggy, in the live-action remake, demonstrate some nice touches.

A chase through The Louvre, in which the cartoon heroes duck in and out of numerous paintings, is also great fun, both visually and comically, as are some of the jokes ‘quacked’ by Daffy and Bugs.

But the film really shoots itself in the foot from the outset, by serving up footage of one of the classic cartoon sequences (involving the seasonal duck hunt) and seldom coming close to matching it again.

All of which makes Back in Action a film that is strictly for the children only.

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