Looney Tunes: Back in Action
|Looney Tunes: Back in Action|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Dante|
|Written by||Larry Doyle|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$68.5 million|
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 to the board members of Warner Bros. that he gets his own movie. He is promptly fired by the actual Warner Brothers and escorted outside by Kate Houghton, the icy new V.P. of Comedy. Kate asks aspiring stuntman and security guard DJ Drake, son of action star Damian Drake, to remove Daffy from the studio lot. However, Daffy outwits DJ and in the following chase, caused him to accidentally knocks down the studio's water tower into Kate's car by using the Batmobile. DJ is dishonourably fired from the lot. He returns to his father’s home, discovering Daffy snuck along. DJ is abruptly called by his father, who is revealed to actually be a secret agent. Damian asks DJ to go to Las Vegas and find an associate of his called Dusty Tails for the location on a diamond called the Blue Monkey. Damian is kidnapped by minions of the Acme Corporation, prompting DJ and an excited Daffy to drive for Las Vegas.
Realising Bugs’ gags are ruined without Daffy, the Warner Brothers ask Kate to rehire him or be fired herself. Kate and Bugs learn where DJ is going and set out after him in a sleek “spy car” found in Damian’s garage. Acme’s executives, led by the childish Mr. Chairman, seek to use the Blue Monkey’s supernatural powers to turn humanity into monkeys to mass-produce their products, then transform them back to buy the products. DJ and Daffy arrive in Las Vegas, meeting Dusty in a casino run by Yosemite Sam, who is an Acme operative. Dusty explains she is a spy too and gives DJ a strange Queen of Diamonds playing card. Yosemite and his minions attack, leading to an extensive car chase through Las Vegas, with Bugs and Kate joining in when DJ hijacks the spy car. The car suddenly takes flight when Daffy screams “Mother!”, escaping Yosemite.
DJ causes the spy car to crash in Death Valley, and leads the group through the desert. They eventually stumble into the top secret Area 52 (described as the true identity of Area 51), where they meet Damian’s gadget specialist "Mother". Mother plays a video recording, explaining Acme’s plan and how they will use a satellite to initiate their worldwide plan of industrial conquest. Area 52 houses a number of “illegal aliens” including Acme operative Marvin the Martian, who causes a breakout to seize the playing cards, but DJ and co. escape to the desert. Realising the playing cards has the Mona Lisa’s face on it, the group head via scene transition to the Louvre in Paris. They discover the card is actually a viewing window, and use it on Mona Lisa, revealing a map of Africa hidden beneath and take a photo of it.
Elmer Fudd arrives, revealing he is “secretly evil” and demands the card. Bugs and Daffy run off with the card, jumping in and out of famous paintings until Bugs defeats Elmer after jumping out of a Pointillism painting. Kate is briefly kidnapped by Mr. Chairman’s bodyguard Bob Smith, who escapes in a helicopter with the photo, leaving Kate to be saved by DJ. In Africa, DJ’s group run into Granny, Sylvester and Tweety, and travel to an ancient temple where they find the Blue Monkey. Granny and co. reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Smith and Taz in disguise, with the former using a disintegration pistol to transport himself and the heroes to Acme’s headquarters, leaving Taz and Smith behind, who is revealed to be a She-Devil in disguise.
Mr. Chairman gives the Blue Monkey to Marvin who races off into space to attach the diamond to the satellite, pursued by Bugs and Daffy. DJ and Kate are tied up but escape to rescue Damian, who is to be run over by a train driven by Wile E. Coyote. The two face off against a robotic guard dog, but manage to defeat it and DJ rescues his father. Bugs battles Marvin, while Daffy becomes Duck Dodgers and tries to destroy the diamond but is blown up by the satellite's weaponry. However, Daffy rips off his beak and tosses it into the energy beam created by the diamond, firing it and turning only Mr. Chairman into a monkey. After Bugs and Daffy destroy the satellite and crash back to Earth, Daffy discovers the whole thing has actually been staged so Bugs could get him into a movie with him again.
Bugs makes amends with Daffy, promising to make him equal partners. Just as Daffy’s luck is improving, he is flattened by the Looney Tunes’ logo. Porky Pig stutters to say his catchphrase "That's all folks", only for the studio to shut down while he tries, to which he gives up and tells the audience to go home.
- Brendan Fraser as D.J. Drake / Himself
- Jenna Elfman as Kate Houghton
- Steve Martin as Mr. Chairman
- Heather Locklear as Dusty Tails
- Joan Cusack as Mother
- Timothy Dalton as Damian Drake
- Bill Goldberg as Mr. Smith
- Don Stanton as Mr. Warner
- Dan Stanton as Mr. Warner's Brother
- Matthew Lillard as Himself (Cameo)
- Jeff Gordon as Himself (Cameo)
- Kevin McCarthy as Dr Miles Bennell (cameo)
- Michael Jordan as Himself (Archive footage from Space Jam)
- Marc Lawrence as Acme VP, Stating the Obvious
- Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Beaky Buzzard and Mama Bear
- Jeff Bennett as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam and Nasty Canasta
- Bob Bergen as Porky Pig
- June Foray as Granny
- Brendan Fraser as Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian She-Devil
- Eric Goldberg as Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales and Tweety
- Bruce Lanoil as Pepé Le Pew
- Billy West as Elmer Fudd and Peter Lorre
- Danny Chambers as Cottontail Smith
- Will Ryan as Papa Bear
- Stan Freberg as Junior Bear
- Casey Kasem as Shaggy Rogers
- Frank Welker as Scooby Doo
- Mel Blanc as Gremlin Car (archive recordings)
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.
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."
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.
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. Goldsmith died in July 2004, months after the film's release.
- Life Story – Carl Stalling (:18)
- What's Up? (1:24)
- Another Take (:48)
- Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
- Out of the Bag (3:42)
- Blue Monkey (:54)
- In Style (1:09)
- The Bad Guys (2:57)
- Car Trouble (3:45)
- Thin Air (1:24) (a version of the well known Powerhouse theme is heard)
- Area 52 (1:27)
- Hot Pursuit (2:26)
- We've Got Company (1:50)
- I'll Take That (1:19)
- Paris Street (1:21)
- Free Fall (1:15)
- Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
- Jungle Scene (1:40)
- Pressed Duck (3:22)
- Re-Assembled (:50)
- The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down (Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin) (:16)
Looney Tunes: Back in Action was released on November 14, 2003, originally planned to open earlier that summer. 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.
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.
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 57% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, whilst at Metacritic, it scored a 64/100. 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."
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.
Home media release
- "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
- "Artist Bob Camp recalls the ill-fated "Space Jam 2"". Animated Views. November 30, 2012. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "Joe Dante on Looney Tunes". Something Old, Nothing New. June 15, 2007. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "The Den of Geek interview: Joe Dante". Den of Geek. February 21, 2008. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action soundtrack review at Filmtracks.com. Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- "Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
- Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide.
- "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- "Looney Tunes: Back in Action Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- "Looney Tunes: Back in Action :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
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