Looney Tunes: Back in Action

Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin and Timothy Dalton. Directed by Joe Dante.
Running Time: 90 mins
Rated: PG

Film distributors know its best for hardened critics to see animation films with children - lots of them. Usually it works. Whatever reservation the cynical critic may have, he or she cannot deny that the kids liked the film.

This ploy didn't work with Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Kids are the toughest critics in town and they got sick of this film fairly soon.

DJ Drake (Fraser) is a security guard on the Warner's Brothers lot in LA. After loosing his job he teams up with Kate (Elfman), Warner Brothers Vice President for Comedy, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny (both characters voiced by Joe Alaskey) and sets out to rescue his father Damien Drake (Dalton), part-time James Bond-esque movie star and part-time CIA undercover agent, from the evil clutches of Mr Chairman (Martin). To do so they have to find the mythical Blue Diamond before Mr Chairman does.

Shrek took animation films to a new and better level: smart script, self-deprecating humour and excellent entertainment for children and adults. Writer Allison Abbate tries to do a Shrek, but fails. She mixes in her scripting bowl every Looney Tunes character ever produced at Warner Brothers with quotations from James Bond, Austin Powers and Indiana Jones. Lots of physical comedy ensues in LA, the Arizona desert, Las Vegas and Paris. As assured as the animation and photography is, the film doesn't work. There are just too many characters on the screen, all screaming for our attention.

Even when the Looney Tune characters are laughing at how un-PC their slapstick comedy is these days, it's not all that funny. And for a good reason. Even if the violence is so much more restrained than it used to be, it is very violent.

The kids I saw Looney Tunes with got tired and restless, and so did I. Unless they can come up with a more intelligent vehicle to resurrect these characters, let's hope Warner Brothers has decided, "That's all folks!"

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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