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Looney Tunes: Back In Action is a 2003 American live-action/animated, Comedy/Adventure film directed by Joe Dante and produced by Paula Weinstein and Bernie Goldman. It starred Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman, and Steve Martin. It was released on DVD on November 14th, 2003.
Tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck demands his own movie from the Warner Brothers only to be fired by V.P. Of Comedy Kate Houghton. D.J. Drake, son of action star Damian Drake, is also fired from his job as a security guard after trying to escort Daffy from the studios, driving The Batmobile into the studio's water-tower which falls on Kate's car. Kate tries to make Bugs' film more educational and socially relevant, but he refuses to work with her unless Daffy is brought back; she is ultimately forced to comply in order to keep her job after Bugs is injured during a routine that requires Daffy's presence. D.J. returns home and is surprised to find that Daffy had snuck along. Finding a hidden video screen, D.J. is told by his super spy father to go to Las Vegas to find a woman named "Dusty Tails" to get a diamond called "The Blue Monkey." D.J. and Daffy head out in an old A.M.C. Gremlin car. Bugs and Kate arrive at the house after Bugs calls Daffy and learns the situation, and pursue them in Damian's spy car, a T.V.R Tuscan right hand drive. Also after the diamond are ACME, run by Mr. Chairman who plans to use the diamond to take over the world and sell more merchandise. D.J. and Daffy arrive in Las Vegas and find Dusty Tails performing at a casino run by Yosemite Sam. Dusty gives D.J. a playing card with The Mona Lisa's face on it. Sam, working for ACME, pursues D.J. and Daffy across the city, leading to a car chase with Bugs and Kate being dragged into the mayhem when D.J. takes the wheel of the spy car. The heroes escape via the spy car's flight ability whilst Sam crashes into his own casino. The spy car crashes in Death Valley where the heroes conveniently find a Wal-Mart thanks to Kate's desire for more product placement. Mr. Chairman sends in Wile E. Coyote to defeat the heroes but he fails via a misdirected missile. The heroes wander into Area #52 (Area 51 created as a "paranoid fantasy") where they meet Mother , a James Bond-like figure who gives DJ new gadgets to help find the diamond and reveals that ACME will use the diamond to turn mankind into monkeys to create their merchandise and then turn them back so they'll buy the products. Marvin The Martian and a group of famous aliens (including two Daleks) attack, but the heroes escape. They conclude the next clue is in The Mona Lisa painting in Paris. In The Louvre Museum, the heroes discover the playing card doubles as a viewing window and find a map of Africa behind the Mona Lisa painting and take a photo on Kate's mobile phone. Elmer J. Fudd arrives to gain the card, turning out to be "secretly evil." Bugs and Daffy flee playfully around the museum, leaping through various famous paintings until Elmer is defeated by Bugs via a fan when he jumps out of a Pointillism painting. Mr. Smith, henchman of Mr. Chairman, steals Kate's phone. The heroes travel to Africa where they hitch a ride on an elephant ridden by Sylvester The Cat, Tweety Bird, and Granny. They find the diamond and a temple, but Granny and the others reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smith and The Tasmanian Devil. Mr. Chairman uses a disintegration-gun to transport himself and the heroes to ACME Headquarters and gains the diamond. Mr. Smith is then revealed to be Tasmanian She-Devil. The diamond is taken to a satellite by Marvin; Mr. Chairman explains he will fire an energy beam worldwide which will turn everyone into monkeys besides himself and his love interest, Mary. D.J. and Kate save Damian and Wile blows up in a train. Bugs and Daffy chase Marvin to the satellite, and while Bugs fights Marvin, Daffy becomes Duck Dodgers and manages to destroy the satellite by plugging its dish with his beak. Bugs defeats Marvin by overloading his own bubble gun. The energy beam strikes Mr. Chairman, turning him into a monkey. Later, Daffy learns the entire adventure was apart of Bugs' film, but Bugs suggests the two become equal; Daffy starts cheering until he is flattened by the Looney Tunes title iris. While Porky Pig tries to say "Th-th-th-th-That's all folks!", the studio starts to close. When it's almost pitch black and the time before all the lights are turned off thoroughly, Porky tells the audience to go home. In the credits, we see drawn characters from the movie.
- Brendan Fraser as D.J. Drake, a stuntman who wishes to make his father proud.
- Jenna Elfman as Kate Houghton, the icy VP of comedy at the Warner Bros. Studios with a secret crush on Damian.
- Steve Martin as Mr. Chairman, the immature and comedic head of the Acme Corporation.
- Timothy Dalton as Damian Drake, A famous action film star and DJ's father.
- Heather Locklear as Dusty Tails, A friend of Damian who works in Las Vegas.
- Joan Cusack as Mother, A scientist at Area 52 and DJ's mother.
- Bill Goldberg as Mr. Bob Smith, Mr. Chairman's minion.
- Jeff Gordon as himself
- Matthew Lillard as himself
- Mary Woronov as Herself, Acme VP, Bad Ideas, a stuttering woman who Mr. Chairman likes.
- Marc Lawrence as Acme VP, Stating the Obvious, Mr. Chairman's father.
- Bill McKinney as Acme VP, Nitpicking
- George Murdock as Acme VP
- Robert Picardo as Acme VP, Rhetorical Questions.
- Ron Perlman as Acme VP, Never Learning
- Vernon Wells as Acme VP, Child Labor, a cruel man who dislikes children.
- Leo Rossi as Acme VP, Climbing to the Top
- Dick Miller as Studio Guard
- Peter Graves as Civil Defense Film Host (uncredited)
- Dakota Fanning as Little Girl on Tour (uncredited)
- Michael Jordan as himself (uncredited cameo)
- Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester The Cat, Beaky Buzzard, Mama Bear
- Jeff Bennett as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Nasty Canasta
- Bob Bergen as Porky Pig
- June Foray as Granny
- Eric Goldberg as Marvin the Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety Bird
- Danny Mann as Robo Dog, Spy Car
- Daran Norris as Cottontail Smith
- Will Ryan as Papa Bear
- Billy West as Elmer J. Fudd, Mr. Lorre, The Scream
- Casey Kasem as Shaggy
- Frank Welker as Scooby-Doo
- Brendan Fraser as The Tasmanian Devil, Tasmanian She-Devil
- Stan Freberg as Baby Bear
This was the final film Jerry Goldsmith composed music for. Due to Jerry'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 Jerry's music (although the first and last cues are adaptations of compositions heard in Warner Bros. cartoons). John receives an "Additional Music by" credit in the closing titles of the film and "Special Thanks" in the soundtrack album credits.
Budgeted at $80,000,000 but only grossing $68,514,844, Back In Action was a financial flop.
Despite its financial disaster, the 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. As of March 28nd, 2011, the film scores a 56% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The two well-known movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper both gave the film two thumbs up. Along with the critical success, 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.
One of the most entertaining features for adults is the plethora of cultural references in Back in Action. A considerable number of classic movies are referenced in quick throwaway scenes, many famous works of art are shown out of their normal context, and many other primarily American cultural jokes appear in the course of DJ Drake and his cartoon associates' adventures.
Looney Tunes gags Edit
- The film begins with the classic "Rabbit Season, Duck Season" gag, first employed in Chuck Jones's Rabbit Fire (1951), which involves Bugs and Daffy trying to convince Elmer Fudd to shoot each other by aiming his rifle in the other target's direction, Bugs usually winning through clever word trickery. Daffy is shot multiple times by Elmer, each one with a comical outcome. This scene is later rehearsed by just Bugs and Elmer after Daffy is fired, causing confusion with the gag which concludes with Elmer shooting Bugs instead of the absent Daffy.
- During one gag in the opening scene, Bugs reappears in the matador outfit that he wore in Chuck Jones's Bully For Bugs (1953).
- At one point in the board meeting, Daffy performs a series of combat moves similar to the "Guard, turn, dodge, parry, thrust, spin" routine from Chuck Jones' Robin Hood Daffy (1958).
- Bugs briefly crossdresses as a woman, a running gag in many cartoons featuring Bugs.
- Sylvester does not speak in any sequences where he shares the screen with Granny, a reference to many Tweety cartoons where Sylvester remained more or less mute while Tweety got the lion's share of the dialogue.
- Bugs impersonates the two Warner Brothers by dressing in their attire and mimicking their movements. Bugs has performed similar gags in cartoons, although this can be just another form of his disguising talents.
- The suit Bugs wears in the spy car is similar to the suit he has worn during musical-themed cartoons such as Chuck Jones' Long-Haired Hare (1949).
- Wile E. Coyote's opening scene has him freeze in mid-run and a caption appears reading "Coyote: Desertus Operatus Idioticus". This is a reference to the scientific captions that describe both Coyote and Road Runner during each of their cartoon appearances. The Coyote does not speak and communicates by holding up speech signs, another reference to the cartoons. The music during his scenes also matches his movements or emotions. Coyote is also caught in numerous ACME weapons including a missile, dynamite and off-screen fireworks, a safe and a glass window.
- Foghorn Leghorn at one point strikes Yosemite Sam with a plank of wood after the latter asked him to "hit me". Yosemite Sam was actually referring to a term used in blackjack. Twisted words are often used in Looney Tunes cartoons for gags.
- A banana peel trips up Yosemite Sam during the chase scenes in Las Vegas; Yosemite Sam angrily shooting it and referring to it as a "slapstick cliché". The banana peel is a common gag item used for slapstick scenes.
- The scene where D.J., Kate, Bugs and Daffy nearly crash into the ground with the 'spy car' but eventually stop only a few feet from the ground due to being "out of gas" is a reference to the Falling Hare (1943) ending scene.
- When walking through the desert, at one point Bugs says "I told you we should make that left turn at Albuquerque." This is a reference to a line he said in a few classic Looney Tunes episodes when he got lost.
- At Area 52, Bugs holds up a classic 'screwball' sign.
- Bugs mentions upon meeting Elmer Fudd that they have made 35 cartoons together. This is a fairly accurate approximation of the number of Bugs and Elmer cartoons made during the golden age of Looney Tunes.
- During the scene where Bugs, Daffy, DJ, Kate, Sylvester, Tweety and Granny travel through the African jungle, a group of wild multicoloured Tweety birds appear. They tweet like normal birds but through subtitles they reveal that they are saying Tweety's catchphrase, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat".
- Mr. Smith, Mr. Chairman's bodyguard, is armed with a disintegration pistol. He uses it to disintegrate Bugs, Daffy, DJ, Kate and Mr. Chairman to the ACME Headquarters and reassemble there. The disintegration pistol is a weapon previously seen used by both Marvin the Martian and Daffy Duck in Chuck Jones' Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953).
- Wile E. Coyote uses a large number of classic ACME weapons to try and kill Damian Drake include dynamite, a 200 ton anvil and also a Pendulum of Doom which Mr. Chairman describes as overkill. This is reference to the over-the-top weapons used by Wile E. Coyote and other characters in the cartoons.
- Duck Dodgers flight into space is similar to his introductory announcement, involving him leaping into the air with a light shining behind him.
- As Daffy tries to fly out of the space shuttle to save the world, jetpacks on his back continuously explode without warning. This is a common gag seen in the cartoons, which involves items exploding without any igniting or source.
- The film concludes with Porky Pig appearing in the zoomed in ending iris trying to say "That's all, Folks!". However, in a little twist, the famous text is written beneath him, and he stutters so much that the music ends and the title is already finished writing before he can get the words out. The screen goes half-dark, and he gives up and says frustratingly "Go home, folks!".
Cinematic references Edit
- In a nod to WB arch-competitor Disney and their current rival Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003), after a water tower floods the studio lot, Bugs, fishing in a boat in back of Kate's Alfa Romeo, declares, "Hey, whadda ya know? I found Nemo!", at which a small orange fish pops out of the water on his line.
- In the WB cafeteria, a cartoon Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker) and Shaggy from Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo, Where are You! series (Shaggy appropriately voiced by Casey Kasem, respectively), argue with Matthew Lillard, who plays Shaggy in two live-action movies, about Lillard's movie performance (Shaggy threatens to come after Lillard if he performs similarly in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed).
- There are also many live-action television and movie references. Some run throughout the film, but most are only brief scenes which merely show the characters, challenging the viewer to recall where they have seen that familiar face. An incomplete list of such amusing references, in rough order of appearance, includes:
- The concept of Area 51 being only a cover for Area 52 was first used in the television program NewsRadio, in the third season episode "President".
- The Maltese Falcon can be seen on the shelf in the WB office scene.
- The Warner Bros. mention that the VP was in charge of the movie "Lethal Weapon Babies", a jab at the Lethal Weapon action movie series.
- Batman and the Batmobile from the film versions of Batman (the Batmobile is identical to the one in the 1989 movie, while Batman himself resembles the version from the Nolan films).
- The scene of DJ being fired was inspired by the opening of the 1960s TV series Branded.
- Daffy Duck quoting Jack Nicholson's Marine colonel Jessup ("You can't handle the truth!") from A Few Good Men (1992).
- Timothy Dalton as Damien Drake, a very James Bond-like secret agent, who also happens to share a last name with British spy John Drake from Danger Man (Secret Agent in the United States). Dalton was James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.
- The sound effects made by the Gremlin car are actually archive recordings of legendary Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc, voicing the sound effects of Jack Benny's Maxwell.
- Bugs Bunny's black-and-white shower scene evoking the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho (1960), down to the dozens of odd angles and close-up shots, and using cartoon-appropriate chocolate syrup for fake blood. (Alfred Hitchcock reportedly used chocolate syrup for the blood in the original scene, presumably because the combination of color-tone and consistency worked well in a black-and-white film).
- A road trip to Las Vegas with Elvis Presley on the radio, singing the eponymous theme song to Viva Las Vegas (1964).
- Dusty Tails (Heather Locklear), after a Britney Spears-style performance, zips up in leather like Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) from TV spy show Alias. "I also work for the Agency. Professional assassin."
- The graffiti "Hi There" on Wile E. Coyote's missile alludes to the nuclear bomb from Dr. Strangelove.
- Most of the aliens and monsters in the Area 52 scene are actual monsters from other films, including an appearance of Robby the Robot, and creatures from The Day of the Triffids (1962), Robot Monster (1953), This Island Earth (1955), The Man from Planet X (1951) and Fiend Without a Face (1958).
- The domed robotic creatures yelling "Exterminate them!" are Daleks from the British sci-fi series Doctor Who; more precisely, the models used are from the non-canon films Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD (distinguishable from the TV versions by the "vapor spray" weapon, although there seems to got circle-shaped death-Ray with it). It was at the insistence of Steve Martin that Daleks be used in that scene. This was the cause of a minor legal issue as the Daleks are owned by the estate of Terry Nation and are not in the public domain as was assumed.
- Kevin McCarthy reprises his role as Dr. Miles Bennell from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), even appearing in black-and-white and carrying a pod creature. He repeats his plaintive warning from the end of that movie: "They're already here! You're next! You're next!"
- A sly reference to another B-movie, The Eye Creatures (1965), features an uncredited Peter Graves as a Civil defense narrator for the Blue Monkey video briefing, similar to his uncredited flying-saucer film briefing narration in the 1965 movie.
- The weapons cabinet which suddenly pops into place evokes a similar scene from The Matrix (1999).
- The snapping plant is from the sci-fi movie .
- The Jerry Lewis poster at the Eiffel base which reads "OÙ TROUVEZ-VOUS LA GUERRE?" ("Where do you find the war?") comes from Which Way to the Front? (1970). The movie poster displaying Lewis open-mouthed in German officer attire is authentic.
- The Blue Monkey diamond at the heart of the film's plot is most likely a reference to the Pink Panther diamond at the heart of the plot of the eponymous film, especially since a successful animated character developed from the concept. Steve Martin would go on to star in the 2006 and 2009 remakes/.
- In Las Vegas, when Daffy and DJ rush to the Gremlin car, being chased by Yosemite Sam, the first few notes are from the theme from Gremlins (1984), which was also directed by Joe Dante.
- The cartoon ACME aide who looks and sounds like Guillermo Ugarte (Peter Lorre) from Casablanca (1942) is a variation on Warner Bros.' frequent allusions to Lorre's memorable character.
- When multicolored Tweety birds attack Sylvester, the original Tweety, dressed in colorful African garb, yells, "Cwy fweedom!", a reference to the film Cry Freedom (1987).Template:Or
- In the monkey village scene, the booby-trapped "Barrel of Monkeys", the darts, and the rock that creates a "pressed duck" all pay homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
- The ACME chairman's third disguise in the monkey village scene is basketball star Michael Jordan, who also played with the Warner Bros. cartoon cast in Space Jam (1996) (Daffy, in a sly dig at the film's bizarre plot, exclaims "This doesn't make a lick of sense.").
- In a possible allusion to the final act of Flash Gordon (1980), Bugs and Daffy crash through the windows of the ACME tower with their stolen spaceship.
- The ACME Train of Death exploding seems to be a reference to another Warner Bros. film, The Fugitive (1993), as well as another explosive animated train wreck, in Don Bluth's Anastasia (1997).
- A possible reference is after Damien Drake throws a grenade, the guard lets out the Wilhelm Scream.
- Mr. Henchman is somewhat a spoof of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers series. Mr. Henchman does the same TV mess up that Dr. Evil did in the first film. Also, the international trailer for the film uses a piece from the Austin Powers score.
- There are also a number of Star Wars saga riffs throughout Back in Action:
- When Marvin the Martian reaches the satellite, Bugs says, "Eh, what's up, Darth?"
- Bugs makes a double reference to the film series as he absentmindedly battles Marvin with a lightsaber while reading The Force for Dummies (which also alludes to the famous "For Dummies" series of instruction books).
- In the monkey village, when the ACME chairman pulls off his second costume and shows himself as Damien, he says, "Look into your heart. You know it's true." DJ Drake replies, "No, it can't be true." This recalls similar dialogue between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
- When Marvin finally spins off into space after accidentally "bubbling" himself, he says, "Darn Dark Side!". This is reminiscent of Darth Vader's tumbling departure from the Death Star in the original Star Wars (1977).
- In the scene where Daffy Duck and DJ Drake are making their way to Las Vegas, DJ tries to convince Daffy that he is not a full time security guard as believed and tries to make himself sound good by claiming that he is a stuntman. While Daffy laughs, DJ tries to sell this as fact and says "Have you seen the Mummy movies? I'm in there more than Brendan Fraser is." This is a reference to The Mummy and The Mummy Returns in which Fraser (DJ) stars. At the end of the film, DJ actually meets Fraser, whom he punches.
Art references Edit
In the scene at the Louvre, where Elmer Fudd maniacally pursues Bugs and Daffy into and out of paintings, many famous works of art are abused in classic zany cartoon style. A partial list of those works include:
- Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí
- The Scream by Edvard Munch
- La Goulue by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat
Other cultural references Edit
- Jenna Elfman's character, Kate Houghton, was named after Katharine Hepburn. Houghton was Hepburn's middle name. Coincidentally, Hepburn died the same year the film was released
- In the "Batman" stunt scene, Roger Corman, prolific B-movie director and the man who started Dante's career, essentially appears as himself.
- The secret government facility, "Area 52", pokes fun at the mysterious "Area 51" facility on the Nellis Air Force Range, unacknowledged by the U. S. government, where the military is rumored to hold evidence of extraterrestrials.
- The alien tickling scene recalls Ray Santilli's infamous "Alien Autopsy" videotape, still a popular subject of ufologists despite its lack of credibility.
- During the chase in Yosemite Sam's casino, the participants run across some dogs playing poker, much like in Looks Like Four of a Kind by C. M. Coolidge, an oil painting better known as "Dogs Playing Poker".
- Jeff Gordon appears as an unnamed race car owner, driving his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Special movie decals added to the regular DuPont "flame" design in 2003 for the race at Phoenix International Raceway to promote the movie, as well as cars driven by Brian Vickers and Steve Park. (Jeff Gordon later makes a cameo in Disney's Herbie Fully Loaded.)
- The scene with a Wal-Mart store in the middle of the desert mocks not only Wal-Mart's ubiquity, but also general commercial product placement in films. The heroes hold a conversation peppered with Wal-Mart slogans and product names.
- The ACME laptop that Wile E. Coyote uses to order his missile system has a browser that looks suspiciously like Microsoft's Internet Explorer (a rival of Time Warner's Netscape). The website he orders it from blares an offer for free gift-wrapping that looks very much like Amazon.com's system.
- Joan Cusack's character is called "Mother", a reference to the head of the spy organization on the TV series The Avengers.
- Among the secret Area 52 VHS videotapes locked up inside Robby the Robot are "THE BLUE MONKEY", "MOON LANDING DRESS REHEARSAL" (alluding to the rumored faking of the Apollo moon landings), "HOW SAUSAGE IS MADE" (a humorous riff on the common expectation that people might not want to eat this popular food if they observed its preparation), and "CONGRESSMEN GONE WILD VOL. 6" (the "WILD VOL." is mainly a guess as the title is partly obscured, in probable reference to the softcore erotic Girls Gone Wild series).
- In the opening shots of Paris, two nuns can be seen walking alongside several pairs of girls in blue dresses. This is a direct reference to the Madeline series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans.
- In one scene, DJ Drake fights with Yosemite Sam's goons, and Daffy tells him to "bite his ear!" This is a reference to boxer Mike Tyson, who bit off a portion of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match, which was also in Las Vegas.
- When Yosemite Sam chases after DJ and the others in Jeff Gordon's Monte Carlo, a Mickey Mouse hat flies out the window.
- The original title for the movie was going to be Spy Jam, but it was changed because it referenced the 1996 Looney Tunes film Space Jam. And Jackie Chan was to be the lead actor.
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