Looney Tunes: Back in Action

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Seamy as distinct from seamless blend of live action and animation, following in the footsteps (or the cattle trail) of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, et al. Under the direction of Joe Dante, a dependable maker of messes, it pays homage to the old Warners cartoons with such profligacy as to show a complete lack of appreciation for the lightly weighted, delicately balanced, finely tuned mechanisms they were. The wisenheimer attitude comes close enough to the originals, and the premise is serviceable: Daffy Duck envies Bugs Bunny his top-dog status at the studio. What we get in place of comic timing, however, is something more like comic cramming: instead of a modus operandi of hit-and-run, a forty-car pileup in a fog and then gridlock for miles. Some of the gags might be all right in another context (a car plummeting nose-first toward the ground and screeching to a halt five feet before impact: "Out of gas"), and there are in-jokes to butter up film scholars of various schools and classes: Bond films, Fifties sci-fi, Psycho, Scooby-Doo, not to mention the oeuvre of Joe Dante (the obligatory Dick Miller cameo). But the relentless onslaught is such as to hammer you into submission, sooner rather than later. Steve Martin has no good idea for the villain of the piece, and a number of bad ideas: an overgrown English schoolboy with a lisping accent, a torturously arched back, short pants, bow tie, owlish Harry Potter specs. Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman merely take up space alongside the cartoon critters. (2003) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 1 hour, 31 minutes
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