Looney Tunes: Back in Action preys upon our deep-rooted childhood love of good ole Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and all their harebrained rivals in what would otherwise be a silly, lackluster film. Back in Actiontakes us behind-the-scenes on the Warner Bros. lot to enjoy a world where cartoons and humans attempt to live together in relative harmony. And unlike Space Jam, the stars of this film are the animated bunch while the humans follow their lead.
Leading the cast of humans are Jenna Elfman and Brendan Fraser as Kate and DJ. She’s a WB studio executive who is canned after handing Daffy a pink slip. Her mission is to recover the elusive duck, get back her job and include him in the latest Bugs Bunny flick. DJ Drake is a buff hunk who finds out his father is a super spy just in time to help save him and the world (with Daffy’s help) from a crazed ACME bigwig. Both Elfman and Fraser are uncharacteristically subdued in the film because they defer to the bunny and the duck, enjoying the most mischievous lines of the film.
Even ACME has had to take dangerous lengths to survive in this economy. Kate, DJ, Daffy and Bugs are reeled into an ACME mastermind’s plot to turn the entire world into monkeys. As monkeys, everyone be forced into free labor to create the best ACME products, then having been turned back to humans, they will purchase all the same ACME products they labored over as monkeys. Egad!
Timothy Dalton joins Back in Action to draw big laughs (from adults) as Damien Drake, DJ’s Bond-esque father, proving that he makes a fine spy, though a stale James Bond. Joan Cusask makes a quick appearance as his Q-like counterpart handling all the cool super spy gadgets. Damien Drake, while tied to train tracks, is held hostage by a wicked Steve Martin, unsurprisingly over-the-top as the monkey-maker, in one of his worst roles ever. Martin’s role could easily have been played by a cartoon. Clued into this fact, Martin overacts in a way that is truly villainous.
Okay, enough background. This film is really about the toons, not the non-toony characters. A lunch where an animated Shaggy and Scooby Doo threaten Scooby Doo’s Matthew Lillard for disgracing them in the live action film leaves no question about who the bosses are in this film. WB and Looney Tunes characters make impressive appearances alongside cameos by human actors throughout the film.
Bugs Bunny, always cool under pressure, and Daffy Duck, the ying to his yang, steal the show mostly by poking fun at the adults and each other throughout the film. You know the drill. The hotter Daffy gets under the collar, the cooler Bugs gets! These two had their shtick downpat long before Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller ever knew what a shtick was.
The fun for adults is in rediscovering these slightly more hip versions of Bugs and Daffy. Perhaps they were always that hip, yet, another piece of knowledge we were forced to chuck along the road to adulthood. Bugs and Daffy are positively sharp, banging out witty lines and playing off each other like far less animated actors. Though, a brawny Fraser and a silly and sweet Elfman were so obviously placed in this film to keep the adults from running out of the theaters, they can hardly compete with more experienced actors like Bugs and Daffy.
Back in Action is as fast-paced and madcap as any Looney Tunes cartoon, only bigger, longer and uncut! Besides being a regular barrel of laughs that gives all the Looney Tunes their due, Back in Action also offers spectacularly loud animated and live action special effects. An enthusiastic picture for adults and children alike, Back in Action is enjoyable for all who have ever loved the Looney Tunes bunch.
The DVD is home to a wide variety of special features that are as funny and zany as the film. Commentary by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck is available on almost all of them. A “Behind the Tunes” featurette offers a set tour with Bugs and Daffy. “Bang Crash Boom” features a look at “the rabbit and duck perspective on the special effects”. An alternate opening and ending plus a slew of deleted scenes, some more hilarious than others can be found in “Looney Tunes Out of Action: Best Scenes You’ve Never Seen.” Most of the cuts were scenes that built up a romance between Kate and DJ. With a new Loony Tunes short, DVD-ROM features and a special piece starring Yosemite Sam, the DVD is as eager to please as the film.