Looney Tunes: Back in Action

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For the tie-in video game, see Looney Tunes: Back in Action (video game).
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Movie poster looney tunes back in action.JPG
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Joe Dante
Produced by Bernie Goldman
Joel Simon
Paula Weinstein
Written by Larry Doyle
Starring Brendan Fraser
Jenna Elfman
Steve Martin
Timothy Dalton
Joan Cusack
Heather Locklear
Joe Alaskey (voice)
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Dean Cundey
Edited by Rick Finney
Marshall Harvey
Baltimore Spring Creek Productions
Goldmann Pictures
Warner Bros. Animation
Lonely Film Productions GmbH & Co. KG.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s)
  • November 9, 2003 (2003-11-09) (premiere)
  • November 14, 2003 (2003-11-14) (United States)
Running time 93 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million[1]
Box office $68,514,844[1]

Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a 2003 American live action/animated adventure comedy film directed by Joe Dante, written by Larry Doyle, and starring Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Timothy Dalton, Joan Cusack, Bill Goldberg, with Heather Locklear and Steve Martin. It is the second live-action feature-length film starring the Looney Tunes characters, the first being Space Jam (1996).


Tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck demands his own movie from the Warner Brothers, only to receive objections by recently appointed V.P. of Comedy, Kate Houghton. Kate points out through computer-generated research that Bugs' fanbase is significantly bigger than Daffy's. When Daffy asks the Warner Brothers to decide between him and Bugs, they promptly fire Daffy. Kate has to grab onto his arm as he tries to get her to reconsider her decision, and she asks D.J. Drake, an aspiring actor and stuntman working as a guard, who unbeknownst to her, is the son of action star Damian Drake, and had just come from a bad stuntman tryout, to get him to leave. However, he points out that she always has to follow her bosses' orders just to keep up with her job. While she defends herself saying he doesn't know her, he points out he knows her position, the model of her car and its condition, because she nearly ran over him last week. Kate nearly gets distracted with a romantic fantasy while D.J. points out that Daffy ran off. Kate just tells him to go get him.

After a length chase around the studios, D.J. follows Daffy to the filming of the new Batman movie where Daffy attempts to drive off in the Batmobile. D.J. manages to grab him, unaware that the vehicle has started itself and headed for the studio's water-tower. It causes the tower to fall on Kate's car as she and Bugs are leaving for lunch, completely soaking the two. D.J. gets fired over the incident.

Over lunch, Kate tries to make Bugs' new movie more educational and socially relevant, but he refuses to work with her unless Daffy is brought back. After returning home, D.J. is surprised to find Daffy stowed away in his backpack. Depressed by D.J.'s revelation of the house belonging to his father and the implications of that statement, Daffy then notices the posters of D.J.'s father and realizes just who said father really is. He speculates Damian Drake might be using his acting career to hide his real job as a super spy. A ringing sound interrupts the ensuing argument that D.J. discovers is coming from...a remote. Pressing a button on the remote triggers a hidden projector, revealing a hidden screen behind his father's portrait. D.J. watches in astonishment as his father appears on screen and instructs him to find a woman named "Dusty Tails" in Las Vegas and ask her about a diamond called "The Blue Monkey". D.J. and Daffy head out in an old A.M.C. Gremlin car that Daffy keeps insisting is a spy car, to which D.J. points out that he used to deliver pizzas in said vehicle. Despite wanting to have Daffy not involved in the mission, he has no choice but to let him tag along as he can't get him away from him much longer. Shortly after they leave, the garage floor flips 180 degrees to reveal a sleek silver T.V.R Tuscan right hand drive.

The Warner Brothers view a test take of Kate's version of the movie script. It reveals that Bugs got injured during a routine that normally required Daffy's presence, prompting the Brothers to fire Kate for getting rid of their "best duck". She promises to rehire Daffy by Monday or lose her job. Meanwhile, in D.J.'s car, Daffy mocks D.J.'s guarding skills, irritating D.J. into revealing his actual career as a stuntman. He points out that he did more stunt work in the Mummy series than Brendan Fraser until Mr. Fraser felt threatened and decided to do all the stunts himself. Unbeknownst to Daffy, an ACME satellite records Bugs' call to him. The henchman on duty, Bob Smith, takes the call to his boss, Mr. Chairman, who plans to use the diamond to take over the world and sell more merchandise. Subsequent conversation with the board reveals him to be responsible for Damien's kidnapping.

Kate arrives at the house to talk to D.J. and ask about Daffy's whereabouts. After encountering Bugs in the bathroom, Kate sees some movie posters and a photo hanging in the hallway and realizes who D.J. is related to. She admits to Bugs that she had a crush on Damian Drake and was only trying to model her life after his. After Bugs comforts her, he reveals where Daffy and D.J. are going, and they pursue them in Damian's spy car. On the way Bugs annoys Kate and messes with several gadgets in the car, resulting in an auto-valet service that rapidly outfits both Kate and Bugs in formal wear.

D.J. and Daffy arrive in Las Vegas and walk into a casino run by Yosemite Sam, who unbeknownst to them has been ordered to stop them from getting the diamond. After Daffy and D.J. find Dusty Tails performing on stage. D.J. has to disguise himself as one of the backup dancers and manages to convince her on-stage to talk to him. In her dressing room, Daffy and D.J. learn that Dusty also works alongside Damian as a spy. Damian was assigned to get the Blue Monkey because the diamond has supernatural powers and could have disastrous results in the wrong hands. Dusty shows them a Queen of Diamonds playing card with the Mona Lisa's face on it. Sam and his henchmen fire a cannon into dressing room. D.J. pulls Dusty to safety, taking the card in the process. D.J. knocks out several henchmen as he and Daffy escape the casino. The chase ends with a game of blackjack after the card lands in the shuffling machine. D.J. initiates multiple hits from the dealer until the special card is dealt. In mid-chase, Daffy hits the windshield of the car drive by Bugs and Kate. D.J. gets in the driver's seat and the group manages to escape when Daffy accidentally triggers spy car's flight ability with the word "Mother" whilst Sam crashes into his own casino. After Kate jeers at D.J. for irresponsibility, he attempts to take control and causes it to stall, falling into Death Valley.

While spending the night in a makeshift camp, Daffy reveals he envies Bugs for being so popular with so little effort and wishes it were like that for himself. During the morning, the heroes conveniently find a Wal-Mart thanks to Daffy's and Kate's desires for more product placement on low-price brands and leave the store with several supplies of food, water and clothing. On the advice of his own father, Mr. Chairman sends in Wile E. Coyote to defeat the heroes but he fails via a misdirected missile. While D.J. contemplates travelling alone, the group wander into Area #52 (Area 51 created as a "paranoid fantasy") through an invisible portal where they meet Mother, a James Bond-like figure. She reveals that ACME wants to use the diamond to turn mankind into monkeys to create the badly-functioning merchandise and then turn them back so they'll buy the products, and Damian has to destroy it in order to save humanity. According to her, the key to the diamond's location is "what lies behind her smile" in reference to the face on the card. Mother gives D.J. new gadgets to aid his mission. During all these, illegal aliens are being transported through the room, including one Marvin Martian. Marvin and a group of famous aliens (including two Daleks) break free and attack the group, but the heroes narrowly escape through closing portal. They conclude that the next clue is in The Mona Lisa painting in Paris, and Bugs gets the idea of travelling there quickly through a scene transition a.k.a. a page turn.

In The Louvre Museum, the heroes discover the playing card doubles as a viewing window and use it to find a map of Africa behind the Mona Lisa painting. They take a photo with Kate's mobile phone during which Daffy tries to get into the photo. Elmer Fudd arrives to gain the card, turning out to be "secretly evil." Bugs and Daffy elude him in cartoon fashion around the museum, leaping through various famous paintings until Bugs defeats Elmer with a fan when he jumps out of a Pointillism painting. However, while D.J. and Kate watch the chase, she is kidnapped by Mr. Smith before hearing D.J. joke about getting together with her. He now pursues the henchman in order to rescue her. When he sees him dragging her into the Eiffel Tower, he tries to use his rocket-fueled pants in order to fly up to the top of the tower, but when they take off on their own, he is ultimately forced to take Papa Bear's pants and buy a ticket to get to the top. He manages to get there just as Mr. Smith steals Kate's phone and takes off on a helicopter with Kate clinging to him to get her phone back. When she loses grip, D.J. manages to rescue her by skydiving and grabbing her, and then using his own phone as a hook to get her down safely, snapping up flowers and chocolate for her before landing conveniently at a table at a restaurant where Daffy and Bugs are. Kate is grateful to D.J. for performing a heroic and romantic act for her and embraces with him, and both are grateful to Bugs and Daffy for keeping the card, inspiring them to travel to Africa.

At ACME, Mr. Chairman attempts to show the location from Kate's phone, only the photo has Daffy's head in it, narrowly blocking the location. As a last resort, he sends The Tasmanian Devil to track the four down.

The heroes travel to Africa where they hitch a ride on an elephant ridden by Granny, Sylvester and Tweety Bird, despite being flustered by the strange coincidence of them running into each other. They find a temple, rigged with a booby trap. Daffy accidentally sets off the trap and gets hit by a rock when he picks up a puzzle piece, but Kate finds the puzzle it was supposed to go in and uses it to find the diamond, which D.J. collects. However, Granny and the others reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smith and Taz. Mr. Chairman uses a disintegration-gun to transport himself and the heroes to ACME Headquarters and gains the diamond. Mr. Smith is then revealed to be a Tasmanian She-Devil, with whom Taz quickly falls in love and they become a couple.

Back at ACME, Mr. Chairman shows a video feed of Damian, revealing that he plans to make Damian suffer by making him face his death with a train and an enclosure rigged with explosives. Marvin takes the diamond to be delivered to the satellite; Mr. Chairman explains he will fire an energy beam worldwide which will turn everyone into monkeys besides himself and his love interest, Mary. Kate and D.J. are tied up and left alone, not far from Damien. They untie the rope with surprising ease which was apparently a trap to release a large crate containing parts that assemble themselves into a giant guard dog. The dog tries to eat them and prevent them from stopping Damian's death. Thinking quickly, D.J. takes a stray hook and uses it to keep the dog out of range. He then dives toward the train tracks and pulls his father to safety, barely dodging the train driven by Wile.

Meanwhile, Bugs and Daffy chase Marvin to the satellite. Although they manage to get Marvin off his ship during the journey, Marvin manages to cling to their ship instead. Daffy, out of fear for his life, gets Bugs to go outside and be the hero. While Bugs fights Marvin, Daffy gets scared for his friend's safety and becomes Duck Dodgers and rushes to save the day. Although all hope seems fruitless as two energy towers inadvertently attract to Daffy and explode, he manages to destroy the satellite by plugging its dish with his beak, a small beam escaping through one nostril. Bugs defeats Marvin by overloading his own bubble gun, but gets caught in the explosion. Daffy then flies to carry Bugs back to the ship and they take off for home. One of the stray energy beams strikes Mr. Chairman and turns him into a monkey, who is arrested by Damian as he, D.J. and Kate rush to the scene. Damian also admits he is proud of D.J., especially for being able to count on him, just before Bugs and Daffy crash land into the headquarters.

Bugs then credits Daffy for being the hero, but Daffy says Bugs should get the credit for inspiring him in the first place. While both argue over who should get the credit more, D.J. formally introduces Kate to Damian. At this point, Kate has realized she is in love with D.J., telling Damian that she is "a really big fan of his son", revealing her feelings for D.J. to both of them. While Bugs commends Daffy for achieving his hero goal, Daffy reminds Bugs that he still hasn't convinced him to come back to his movie. However, he then learns the entire adventure was a part of Bugs' film, constructed to help Daffy achieve his hero goal, as the scene pulls back to reveal a movie set.

Backstage, Kate, D.J. and Damian are congratulated by the Warner Brothers, who also tell Kate that she can keep her job after all. D.J. then spots Brendan Fraser, who he had mentioned got him fired earlier. D.J. gets his revenge by punching Mr. Fraser in the nose and quickly escorts Kate out of the scene so they can date.

Bugs suggests the two become equal from now on; Daffy starts cheering until he is flattened by the Looney Tunes title iris. While Porky Pig tries to say "Th-th-th-th-That's all folks!", the studio starts to close. When it's almost pitch black and the time before all the lights are turned off thoroughly, Porky gives up and tells the audience "go home, folks."




A follow-up to Space Jam was planned as early as the film's release. As development began, Space Jam 2 was going to involve a new basketball completion between the Looney Tunes and a new villain named Berserk-O!. Joe Pytka would have returned to direct and Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone signed on as the animation supervisors. However, Michael Jordan didn't agree to star in a sequel and producers were actually lying to design artists claiming that he did sign on to keep development going. Warner Bros. eventually canceled plans for Space Jam 2.[3]

The film then re-entered development as Spy Jam and was to star Jackie Chan. Chan later resigned and the production was delayed numerous times. Warner Bros. then asked Joe Dante to direct the film, having had previous success with Gremlins and Innerspace. Dante early in the 1990s wanted to produce a biographical comedy with HBO, called Termite Terrace. It centered around director Chuck Jones' early years at Warner Bros in the 30s. Dante offered the project to Warner Bros and they said, "Look, it's an old story. It's got period stuff in it. We don't want that. We want to re-brand our characters and we want to do Space Jam."[4]

Years later when Warner Bros. offered Back in Action to him, Dante agreed to direct as tribute to Chuck Jones. He and screenwriter Larry Doyle conceived the film as the "Anti-Space Jam" as he had hated how that film represented the Looney Tunes brand and personalities and decided to poke fun at the studio system that put Space Jam into production. "I was making a movie for them with those characters and they did not want to know about those characters. They didn't want to know why Bugs Bunny shouldn't do hip-hop," Dante said. Warner then hired Walt Disney Feature Animation's Eric Goldberg, most known for his fast-paced, Warner Bros-inspired animation of the Genie in Aladdin, to direct the animation.

Despite being directed by acknowledged fans of the original cartoons, production was reportedly a disaster. Warner Bros., presumably infuriated by the script, gave Dante little to no creative freedom with the project. "It was a pretty grim experience all around," Dante recalled. "The longest year and a half of my life." Dante and Goldberg managed to preserve the original personalities of the characters, but were fighting against the studio towards other aspects of the film. The opening, middle, and end of the film are different from what Dante envisioned.[5]

Of an interesting note, Goldberg also provides the voices of Tweety, Marvin the Martian and Speedy Gonzales. Brendan Fraser voices the Tazmanian Devil having impressed Dante with his vocal impression.


This was the final film legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith created music for. Due to Goldsmith's failing health, the last reel of the film was actually scored by John Debney, though Goldsmith was the only credited composer in marketing materials and the Varèse Sarabande soundtrack album only contains Goldsmith's music (although the first and last cues are adaptations of compositions heard in Warner Bros. cartoons). Debney receives an "Additional Music by" credit in the closing titles of the film and "Special Thanks" in the soundtrack album credits.[6] Goldsmith died in July 2004, months after the film's release.

  1. Life Story – Carl Stalling (:18)
  2. What's Up? (1:24)
  3. Another Take (:48)
  4. Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
  5. Out of the Bag (3:42)
  6. Blue Monkey (:54)
  7. In Style (1:09)
  8. The Bad Guys (2:57)
  9. Car Trouble (3:45)
  10. Thin Air (1:24) (a version of the well known Powerhouse theme is heard)
  11. Area 52 (1:27)
  12. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
  13. We've Got Company (1:50)
  14. I'll Take That (1:19)
  15. Paris Street (1:21)
  16. Free Fall (1:15)
  17. Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
  18. Jungle Scene (1:40)
  19. Pressed Duck (3:22)
  20. Re-Assembled (:50)
  21. The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin) (:16)


Commercial reception[edit]

Looney Tunes: Back in Action was released on November 14, 2003, originally planned to open in the Summer of that year. With heavy competition and little promotion the film grossed a $20 million domestically, horrific compared to its $80+ million budget. Worldwide grosses added the total to $68.5 million.[7][8]

Warner Bros. was hoping to start a revitalized franchise of Looney Tunes media and products with the success of Back in Action. Even new animated shorts and a "Duck Dodgers" TV series were commissioned to tie-in with Back in Action. The film's failure instead triggered Warner Bros. to desperately attempt to re-brand the Looney Tunes in projects like the TV series Loonatics Unleashed. Back in Action also officially shut down the Warner Bros. Feature Animation department after a string of financial failures.

Critical response[edit]

Despite the film's financial disaster, critical response for Looney Tunes: Back in Action was mixed to positive, making it more critically successful than the previous Looney Tunes film Space Jam. The film scored a 56% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes,[9] whilst at Metacritic, it scored a 64/100.[10] Chicago Sun-Times movie critics, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, gave the film "Two Thumbs Up"; Roeper called it a "cheerful and self-referential romp blending animation with live action in a non-stop quest for silly laughs," while Ebert called it "goofy fun."[11]

Along with the positive critical response, the film was also nominated for Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature.


  1. ^ a b c "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 25, 2008. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318155/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast
  3. ^ "Artist Bob Camp recalls the ill-fated "Space Jam 2"". Animated Views. November 30, 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  4. ^ "Joe Dante on Looney Tunes". Something Old, Nothing New. June 15, 2007. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  5. ^ "The Den of Geek interview: Joe Dante". Den of Geek. February 21, 2008. Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  6. ^ Looney Tunes: Back in Action soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
  7. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  8. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. 
  9. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  10. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  11. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved October 29, 2012. 

External links[edit]