Movie Review – Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003) & a Discussion About the Philosophical Implications of Looney Tunes

Director: Joe Dante

Stars: Brenden Fraser, Jenna Elfman, Steve Martin, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote, Joan Cusack, Heather Locklear, Joe Alasky and Timothy Dalton

Daffy is tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs and some of the execs feel that Bugs is the only marketable asset, so when Kate (Elfman) fires Daffy he’s eager to begin a new life. At the same time DJ (Fraser) is fired as well and Daffy hangs onto the security guard, especially when he finds out that DJ is the son of the famous spy actor Damien Drake (Dalton). However, it turns out that not only did Drake play a spy in films, he is a spy in real life! Daffy, DJ, Bugs and Kate get swept up in a globe-trotting adventure to find the Blue Monkey diamond and foil the plans of the ACME chairman, and Daffy has to learn what it truly means to be a hero.

Okay, this film is a riot. I love Looney Tunes and I thought that Looney Tunes: Back in Action captured the spirit of the cartoons and translated it into a fun romp that’s probably not quite as good as Space Jam, but it’s a madcap adventure with a lot of in-jokes. I thought the plot was, well, it’s secondary to the interplay between Bugs and Daffy really. It’s not something that’s particularly captivating but it’s not horrible either, and it sounds strange to say it but Steve Martin’s villainous character was too cartoonish. There’s also a big plot hole at the end as (spoilers) if DJ is holding the diamond why does he not just turn the bad guys into monkeys and deal with them that way?

I think Brendan Fraser is an underrated actor. He obviously has a good sense of humour about himself and this shines through in the film. Daffy steals the show though. I always found him funnier than Bugs so I was glad to see that he shares the action. The in-jokes though, in-jokes GALORE. I loved it! So many cute references and quick cameos. I especially loved the short scene with Scooby-Doo, Shaggy and Matthew Lillard. Oh, and Batman! And all the fun references to James Bond without actually mentioning the name, and there were references to Star Wars as well. I just loved it. The movie flew by, I was totally caught up in the humour and the characters and it had me laughing a lot. So obviously I am recommending this!

I do find it odd though when these cartoon characters are placed into the real world. I mean, they’re essentially indestructible and can survive, well, anything! It kinda explains why they’re so caught up in these crazy jokes and schemes because they don’t ever have to worry about dying or their mortality, or even leaving a legacy behind. They can afford to be looney and act as if nothing seriously matters because for them it doesn’t. There’s obviously some amount of pain but really getting blown up is just a minor inconvenience for them. The whole culture of these characters emphasises that what matters is the striving for goals, not achieving them. Characters like Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote all target other characters but if they catch them…what? They’re not going to die, so it’s a case of pouring all their energy into one quest over and over again that is doomed to failure because even if they succeed in catching Bugs or Tweety Pie or the Road Runner, well, there’s nothing left for them. Their whole existence is built on this concept of the impossible quest, and perhaps this is symbolic of our own longing for trying to achieve the perfect life, and to be perfectly happy and perfectly in love. So much of what we’re fed in the media is that our life has to be a certain way and until we have these things we can’t feel that we’ve achieved anything, but the Looney Tunes characters says that it’s okay, it’s alright, the joy is in the trying.

None capture this more than Wile E. Coyote, who has long been my favourite Looney Tunes character. He shows great imagination and incredible determination to capture the Road Runner, and such perseverance and dedication should be celebrated. I would even go so far as to say that he is one of my role models. Thus, I was disappointed when the film showed him as working with ACME. I never saw Wile E. Coyote as a bad guy, not really. I mean, sure, hunting Road Runner isn’t something I would condone but it’s clear in the cartoons that Road Runner mercilessly taunts him. I don’t know what set off Wile E.’s obsession with Road Runner and perhaps it would be better for his mental health if he gave up his pursuit, but he always struck me as a sympathetic, pitiful figure rather than someone that had a malicious streak so I’m not sure that he’d arbitrarily give his services over to ACME, but perhaps I’m biased because I didn’t want to see one of my favourite characters on the side of the bad guys.

But then again given what I said earlier should we be sympathetic to Wile E.? He can’t die, so plummeting off a cliff isn’t as tragic as it would be for one of us. Obviously he suffers a lot of pain but he still chooses to devote his time and energy in pursuit of Road Runner. Maybe instead I sympathise with him because I see the lost potential within, the idea that if he could just see past the Road Runner he might realize that there are so many other possibilities for him to pursue. That strikes me as rather tragic really.

Anyway, yes, I wholeheartedly recommend the film and I would welcome any comments about the philosophical concepts of Looney Tunes.


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