Friday, May 10, 2013

MR Back in Action

It took quite some time and persuasion before Warner Bros decided to put the Looney Tunes into another full feature motion picture.

But when the timing was right... They were finally able to be Back in Action!

Movie: Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Directed by Joe Dante
Release date 2003
Genre Live action/animated adventure comedy
Country USA

It was no Space Jam 2, but it was never supposed to be.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action is the second Looney Tunes feature film. Another attempt at blending live action comedy with the toons' usual slapstick humor.

Warner tried for a really long time to have a second Space Jam developed. After it's huge success despite the general negative reception, the production for a Space Jam 2 was started in 1997. It didn't went far, the project was shut down pretty quickly. The original idea was to have Michael Jordan back, and Mel Brooks was to voice the villain. They tried to make the project a reality several more times, but it seemed that Jordan didn't really like acting much to begin with.

Despite that, he continued to appeare alongside the Looney Tunes several more times in some more ads as late as 1999. It seemed if Warner wanted to finally make this movie a reality they should find another celebrity to endorse the project. Space Jam 2 never made it past the pre-production, but the idea came back many times. A Space Jam 2 would even came up to this day, in 2010 another basketball player, LeBron James said he would love to be a part of a new Space Jam.

Instead Warner Bros tried to look elsewhere. And make it differently. In 2001 Jackie Chan was almost part of Spy Jam, but that also ended up scrapped. After another false start with Race Jam, which would have featured Nascar driver Jeff Gordon, they gave up completely on these big commercial stunts.

And instead let of Gremlins director Joe Dante have a try. The man never hide his real love for these characters in most of his work anyway. What could go wrong?

Looney Tunes: Back in Action follows our classic cult cartoon characters interacting in the real world, causing mischief and wrecking havoc wherever they go.

And it almost has a plot!

When Daffy Duck is tired of always getting the short end, he goes up to Warner Bros' own vice president of the humor department herself, Kate Houghton. Who proceeds to fire the duck. She has DJ Drake, a security guard, escort him off the studio. Daffy cause a lot of trouble which gets DJ also fired.

Bugs Bunny then tries to win Kate over to have Daffy brought back. They're a comedic duo! They won't get rid of his old partner without a fight!

Meanwhile the Acme Corporation's chairman wants to take over the world... or something.

After that the plot becomes more of a pretext for a series of crazy adventures all around the world than anything else really.

Most Looney Tunes shorts have always been about chase scenes, and this movie's the same.

Joe Dante described Back in Action as the "Anti-Space Jam Movie". And it sort of holds true to that motto.

The toons are perfectly in character this time around. There's a ton of slapstick, smart dialogues and the wacky spirit of the Chuck Jones era can be find in the way Bugs and Daffy interact with each other and the other characters.

The movie is a true tribute to these legendary characters. The film was even dedicated to Mel Blanc!

There's literally a ton of references to Warner Bros cartoons (and Hanna-Barbera as well!). Lots of cameos from many characters of their history. But also some clever inside jokes and allusions for scifi fans (who'd ever thought to see a Daleks from Doctor Who in there?!).

The characters were once again handdrawn animated, but given some computer coloring to give them this "3D aspect" that allows them to blend in the picture and have some relief.

Sometimes it doesn't appear as well integrated that much, but it's because they're allowed to act and be cartoony. Sure it's cheesy and doesn't make much sense, but the plot itself is never taken too seriously either.

Here the real stars are clearly the Tunes themselves. Bugs and Daffy get equal billing compared to Space Jam. They're the real heroes.

Back in Action is also a nice buddy movie. The "humans" might not be as interesting, but they get to have fun around the Looney Tunes. Brendan Fraser is a fun enough lead. And Jenna Elfman seems to genuinely be having fun around.

The rest of the cast is great and appears to fit in. But sometimes it feels like there's too many things going on, or rather too much characters.

DJ's action star/real spy father is played by Timothy Dalton in a pretty goofy James Bond/inside joke kind of way. Steve Martin didn't do it much for me. It seems is villain role was almost designed for Rick Moranis.

Michael Jordan even gets a little cameo.

This time the toons voice actors changed a bit (the change was also happening on the TV series at the time). Plucky Duck's Joe Alaskey took over as both Bugs and Daffy Duck and many others. While Space Jam's Billy West only got Elmer Fudd. Funny enough, Brendan Fraser did such a good Taz impression he was given the role as well.

There's some fantastic scenes in this film. The final space scene is pure Looney Tunes joy! And the chase at the Louvre, through several famous paintings ("A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, "The Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dalí and "The Scream" by Edvard Munch) is worth the entire movie in my eyes!

So why did the film fail at the box office? Was it simply a reaction to Space Jam, doomed to fail from the start? I call it bad timing. The early 2000s saw the decline of 2D animation. Other fantastic animated films had the same problem in theaters. (Disney's Atlantis and Treasure Planet, Dreamworks' Sinbad, Don Bluth's Titan AE to name but a few) And 3D CGi animated pictures were all the rage.

Back in Action opened to much better reviews than Space Jam. The film was even nominated to several awards for best animated feature. But the success wasn't there.

Which made Warner can a new series of animated shorts - many were already produced.

This film was also the last to be scored by Jerry Goldsmith before his death in 2004. He made such a fantastic music, worthy of the original animated classics, very reminiscent of Tiny Toons and Animaniacs as well.

Overall, it's a really fun, very good movie.

An animated film for everyone, for all ages!

It's great and Joe Dante did have a lot of fun mixing up the live action and animated character. Even though there's barely any plot to support it.

The Tunes are in-character. The element of satire is back.

For Space Jam fans, Lola Bunny is not mentioned but alluded to. (there's supposedly a cameo on a poster but I was never able to find it...?). She never actually disappeared after Space Jam but was merely absent from this film. Lola quickly joined the ranks of the rest of the Looney Tunes and has been featured in most productions after Space Jam. She has been seen in other films (the Tweety's High-Flying Adventure animated film), series (as part of Baby Looney Tunes, Loonatics and even the Looney Tunes Show nowadays) and games (Space Race, etc.)! But since she was no "looney" to begin with, she didn't fit this film simply.

It's a great highly recommended film. The DVD/Bluray release's filled with tons of deleted scenes worthy of a look. Joe Dante wasn't able to keep most of those in the film because of the production studio.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Felixes!

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