Looney Tunes: Back in Action
|Looney Tunes: Back in Action|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Joe Dante|
|Written by||Larry Doyle|
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|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 produced by Bernie Goldman, Joel Simon, Paula Weinstein, Lonely Film Productions GmbH & Co. KG., Goldmann Pictures, Baltimore Spring Creek Productions and Warner Bros. Feature Animation, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, directed by Joe Dante, written by Larry Doyle with music by Jerry Goldsmith and John Debney and starring Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, and also stars 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). It was premièred on November 9, 2003, and was theatrically released on November 14, 2003. The film was a box office bomb, grossing only $68.5 million against its $80 million budget.
Tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck demands his own movie from the Warner Bros., but they promptly fire him. Aspiring stuntman DJ Drake is asked to escort Daffy off the studio lot, but the ensuing chase leads to the Batmobile demolishing the studio water tower. DJ is fired, and returns home with Daffy hitching a ride, discovering his father and action star Damian Drake is actually a secret agent. Damian instructs his son to travel to Las Vegas, find his associate Dusty Tails, and gain the mystical Blue Monkey diamond before being captured by the Acme Corporation, led by the childish Mr. Chairman. DJ and Daffy head for Vegas. Meanwhile, Bugs’ routines fall apart without Daffy, so V.P. for Comedy, Kate Houghton, is sent to rehire Daffy or face being fired herself. Bugs informs her of the situation and they pursue DJ and Daffy in Damian’s spy car.
In Las Vegas, DJ and Daffy meet Dusty in a casino owned by Acme operative Yosemite Sam. Dusty gives them a strange playing card, but when Yosemite tries to kill them, they flee in the spy car with Bugs and Kate, but when Daffy cries "Mother!", the car takes flight. Crashing in Death Valley, the group stumble across the secretive Area 52, run by Damian’s gadget specialist Mother. Mother plays a video recording, revealing Acme intends on using the Blue Monkey to transform mankind into monkeys to manufacture their products and then buy them as humans. Marvin the Martian, imprisoned in the facility, escapes and leads a group of fellow alien inmates to obtain the playing card but the heroes escape. Realising the card has the Mona Lisa’s face on it, the group conclude they must view the painting in the Louvre, Paris.
At the Louvre, the group discover the card contains a viewing window and looking through it reveals the Mona Lisa has a map of Africa hidden beneath it. Elmer Fudd appears, revealing he is "secretly evil", and chases Bugs and Daffy through the gallery for the card whilst Kate is kidnapped by Mr. Chairman’s bodyguard Mr. Smith to obtain a photo of the African map though DJ rescues her. Elmer is disintegrated after jumping out of a pointillism artwork by Bugs.
DJ, Kate, Bugs, and Daffy travel to Africa, meeting Granny, Sylvester, and Tweety, who escort them to the ruins of a jungle temple where they find the Blue Monkey. Granny and co. reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Smith, and the Tasmanian Devil in disguise. Mr. Chairman uses a disintegration gun to transport himself and the heroes to the Acme headquarters where he forces DJ to give him the diamond when Damian is revealed to be his prisoner.
Marvin is sent to place the Blue Monkey on an Acme satellite which will emit an energy beam around the world to turn everyone, save Mr. Chairman, into monkeys. DJ and Kate rescue Damian from a death trap, whilst Bugs and Daffy pursue Marvin. Bugs is incapacitated, prompting Daffy to become Duck Dodgers, removes his beak and uses it to destroy the Blue Monkey. The transforming energy beam only strikes Mr. Chairman, turning him into a monkey.
Bugs and Daffy return to Earth, where Daffy discovers the whole adventure was staged to make a movie. However, Bugs promises Daffy they will be equal partners, but just as Daffy’s luck seems to be improving, he is flattened by the Looney Tunes’ logo, where Porky Pig tries to close the film with "That’s all folks!" only for the studio to shut down before he can finish and he tells the audience to go home.
- Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Beaky Buzzard and Mama Bear
- Brendan Fraser as D.J. Drake / Himself / Tasmanian Devil / Tasmanian She-Devil
- 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
- Jeff Bennett as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam and Nasty Canasta
- Bob Bergen as Porky Pig
- June Foray as Granny
- 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 Baby 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 competition 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 1930s. 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, eight 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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