Looney Tunes: Back In Action

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I don’t know why people hate Looney Tunes: Back In Action (2003) the way they do. Negative reviews have kept me away from this Joe Dante classic for far too long. Looney Tunes: Back In Action is superior to cult favorite Space Jam (1996) in every way, and has somehow been lost to the public consciousness. I can’t think of a feature film that is more true to the spirit of Chuck Jones and company.

In Looney Tunes: Back In Action we find Joe Dante doing what he has always done best: reflexive comedy. This is probably the most stylistically Joe Dante film since Gremlins 2 (1990). Dante is the cinematic heir to Frank Tashlin and if Looney Tunes: Back In Action doesn’t convince you, nothing will. Dante has thrown so many filmic elements into the stew, ranging from The Living Daylights (1987) to The Robot Monster (1953) to Hearts Of The West (1975) to Blast From The Past (1999), and just let his mind and the Looney Tunes characters run amok. In the scene where Brendan Fraser chases Daffy Duck through the Warner Bros. backlot and into Roger Corman’s Batman set Dante has perfectly lampooned the studio, 90s film culture, and Hollywood’s dual obsessions with branding and capitalism. Every two minutes Dante delivers a set piece equally as chaotic and inspired.

Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman also bring their best to the table. Unlike Michael Jordan these two can act and do a lot of work to keep the insane hijinks grounded. Supporting players like Timothy Dalton, Heather Locklear, Joan Cusack, and Steve Martin are cast to type but playing their different types so broadly that the human element of the film folds back into the world of the cartoons. 

Dante’s films are brimming over with a love for movies and a deep affection for audiences and Looney Tunes: Back In Action is no exception. With Small Soldiers (1998) getting a remastered blu ray release maybe we’ll see a reappraisal of this forgotten gem. I certainly hope so.