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LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (article first published : 2003-12-31)

Looney Tunes: Back In Action is Joe Dante's rather fun, if frenetic and wildly over-the-top, homage to cartoon characters from Warner Bros' Looney Tunes stable. A mix of live action and animation, a la Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the more recent flop, Monkeybones, the new film stars Brendan Fraser, who also happened to be the star of Monkeybones.

He plays DJ Drake, a studio lot security guard who dreams of making it as a stuntman and happens to be the son of a star (Timothy Dalton) who is famous for playing a James Bond-like character in a series of hit films. DJ gets the chance to put his stunt dreams into action when he is forced to try to save his father, who is actually also a real spy and has been kidnapped by bad guys, and receives help from Daffy Duck, who has been kicked out of Warner Bros because of dwindling ratings.

The kidnapping is linked to a gem called the Blue Monkey Diamond, which is also sought by a mad, prissy, freakish tycoon (Steve Martin with his most over-the-top role to date).

Also thrown into the wild chase, which hops from Las Vegas to Paris and Africa, are Jenna Elfman as a humourless studio executive who realises she has done wrong sacking Daddy Duck and battles to woo him back to the studio. And then there's the large supporting cast, including Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, The Roadrunner, Yosemite Sam, Tweety and Sylvester, Porky Pig, Tasmanian Devil, Wile E Coyote, Marvin the Martian and others.

What is most appealing, certainly for adults, is that Dante has sprinkled wit among the slapstick and self-referential humor. The amusing scene sending up Psycho's classic shower scene and a sequence in which cartoon characters, during a chase, go into and out of famous paintings in the Louvre are terrific.

Also fun is a throwaway moment in a restaurant in which actor Matthew Lillard answers to criticisms from the animated Scooby Doo, the famous dog, about the actor's lead role in the live-action film version of the television series.

One could grumble about the film going on to long and moan that not all of the stars, especially Elfman, look in the right spot when interacting with the animated co-stars, but this is a fluffy and unpretentious film that does not warrant such close scrutiny. Also featuring cameo appearances by Heather Locklear (as a Vegas singer) and Joan Cusack (as the oddball head of a secret base called Area 52), Looney Tunes: Back In Action is high-gloss romp that's likely to bring a smile to any kid's face these holidays. It gets a rating of 7/10. Billy Suter




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