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Brendan Fraser’s Looney Tunes Movie Doesn’t Get Nearly Enough Attention


Brendan Fraser's Looney Tunes Movie Doesn't Get Nearly Enough Attention


Summary

  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action offers a wacky blend of physical comedy and meta humor, making it perfect for fans of the cartoon antics.
  • With a star-studded cast and zany gags, this film is a delightful reminder of Looney Tunes’ enduring comedic potential.
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a campy, fun-filled movie that showcases the best of blending live-action and animation.



The Looney Tunes characters have been an integral part of our cartoon pop culture for nearly a century. Their endurance is no surprise, as those early features with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and more arrived at the height of the Golden Age of Animation. Even today, these classics are still enjoyed by audiences young and old. What is a surprise is the fact that it took until 1996 for the Tunes to receive their first big-screen movie. That, of course, was Space Jam. While not a critical success, the sports comedy was a hit at the box office and with every ’90s kid. The 2021 sequel Space Jam: A New Legacy also exists.


Some audiences may not know that there was another live-action/animated Looney Tunes flick in between the two Space Jams. That was 2003’s Looney Tunes: Back in Action starring Brendan Fraser. This movie took a more meta approach, placing the Tunes as animated actors co-existing in a live-action world. Like Space Jam, it also wasn’t a favorite of the critics. It failed to make back its budget at the box office, causing plans for a new franchise to be scrapped. But at least it had a release – cough, cough Coyote vs. Acme. Today, few people remember the delightfully campy mess that was Back in Action, and it absolutely deserves more love.


What Happens in Looney Tunes: Back in Action?


The movie opens at the Warner Bros. lot, where the animated Looney Tunes stars work as actors for the live-action Warner production team. The VP of Comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) fires Daffy Duck when audience tests reveal he is far less popular than Bugs Bunny. Daffy leaves against his will with the security guard and aspiring stuntman D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) and follows him back to the house he shares with his spy movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton). Meanwhile, Warner Bros. changes its mind and threatens to fire Kate if she doesn’t get Daffy back, as the Bugs Bunny cartoons are now stale with no co-star. She and Bugs track them to D.J.’s house.

At the same time, D.J. discovers his father is a real spy and has been captured attempting to keep the Blue Monkey diamond out of the hands of the Acme Corporation chairman (Steve Martin). The Chairman plans to use the diamond to turn Earth’s population into monkeys to work for free in his factories. D.J. and Daffy set out to Las Vegas to search for Damian, while Kate and Bugs follow close behind. The foursome meet up in Vegas and acquire a playing card that will tell them the location of the diamond. The card takes them to the Mona Lisa in France, which points to the jungles of Africa as the hidden location. Along the way, the Acme Chairman enlists Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, the Tasmanian Devil, Elmer Fudd, and Marvin the Martian to try and stop them.


The Chairman catches the group in Africa and forces D.J. to give him the diamond in exchange for Damian’s release. However, he leaves Damian to die and directs Marvin to attach the diamond to the Acme satellite. Bugs and Daffy follow Marvin and destroy the diamond, which emits just one beam that turns only the Chairman into a monkey. Damian is freed, and Bugs and Daffy seem to become equal partners before it’s revealed that the entire adventure was just a movie within a movie. That’s all folks!

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Looney Tunes: Back in Action Has Physical Comedy Galore


It’s a shame this movie didn’t do better, as it’s Looney Tunes at its finest. The live-action doesn’t hinder the animated physical comedy at all, and there may be even more slapstick than in the classic cartoons. Yes, the plot is convoluted, but that’s kind of the point. The movie exists to send up classic action and spy tropes, even casting a former James Bond (Dalton). It’s Looney Tunes, so it’s meant to be wacky and hyperactive. The zany, over-the-top gags are why audiences fell in love with this series in the first place, and seeing the cartoon physics play out over a live-action backdrop makes it all the more hilarious.

While Fraser and Elfman play their roles fairly straight, Martin is having the time of his life. He overacts, mugs for the camera, and dials his physical comedy and body movements up to 11. This may be the only time Steve’s ever been seen without white or gray hair as he dons a flat brown wig to play the Chairman. He knows how wacky the story is, and he lives it up bringing that signature Steve Martin comedy to the role. He almost feels more cartoony than some of the actual cartoons, like when he ties Damian to a collection of TNT on railroad tracks with an anvil suspended overhead. How much more cartoony can you get?


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The Looney Tunes character Bugs Bunny defied social norms and is in many ways the key trickster figure of 20th century western culture.

It’s Filled with a Star-Studded Cast

There are cameos galore, such as Michael Jordan via archive Space Jam footage. In a clever meta-twist, D.J. claims to be the stuntman for Fraser in The Mummy. Fraser even makes a brief appearance as himself alongside D.J. We also see the animated Shaggy Rogers berating live-action Matthew Lillard for his performance in the then-recent live-action Scooby-Doo. NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon appears when Yosemite Sam steals his race car to chase after Bugs, Daffy, and the rest. Heather Locklear and Joan Cusack play supporting roles and assist the group in locating Damian and the diamond. Multiple Looney Tunes characters appear in brief roles, including Porky Pig, Foghorn Leghorn, the Road Runner, Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, Speedy Gonzales, and Pepe Le Pew.


Back in Action succeeds because it never takes itself too seriously. At times, the plot takes a backseat to the wacky antics, but that’s okay because it’s what we’ve come to expect from Looney Tunes. This movie is one of the best showcases of the comedic potential of blending live-action and animation. It grounds the cartoon world while also proving the live-action world can be just as zany. There is some CGI, but the majority of the animation is traditional 2D. It’s a good thing the CGI is limited, as what is there suffers from the curse of early 2000s graphics.

If nothing else, this movie’s a reminder of the creative potential that arises when cartoon shenanigans are brought to the real world. If you have a free hour and a half, put it on your radar. At least until a full, pirated version of Coyote vs. Acme leaks.

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