Looney Tunes: Back in Action

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"What am I talkin' to you for? All you gotta do is munch on a carrot and people love you."

The second feature film attempt at reviving the Looney Tunes franchise since the fall of the original Warner Bros. cartoons, after Space Jam. Released in 2003, this film is another good example of the Roger Rabbit Effect. Daffy Duck is fired from the Warner Studio and falls in the middle of a search for a mysterious Blue Monkey diamond that the secret agent father of a security guard is also trying to find before the Head of Acme does. Without Daffy, Bugs Bunny just can't do his job, and he heads out across the world with the VP of Comedy to retrieve him. Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman star as said security guard and VP, Joe Alaskey voices both Bugs and Daffy, and Steve Martin is a live-action villain who is the Head of the Acme Corporation that apparently invents all the malfunctioning devices known to cartoon-dom. Joe Dante directs. Eric Goldberg, who animated Aladdin's Genie, directs the animation.

Rumor has it that Dante made this revival in response to his deep hatred for the previous film incarnation, calling this the "anti-Space Jam". Ironically, its working title was Spy Jam, and had an action-oriented, James Bond-like feel to it, instead of spoofing sports movies. It also was going to star Jackie Chan. The secret agent story remains, but Bugs and company are Animated Actors under contract at the Warner Studios lot, instead of otherworldly residents separate from our own. Rather than make all of them friends, they cast Elmer Fudd and the other supporting Tunes as enemies of Bugs and Daffy, several of which live around the world.

Financially, it performed even worse than Space Jam... in fact, it's estimated that Warner Bros. lost between $60 million and $80 million on the film, making it one of the biggest box office flops ever -- theaters retracted the film out of embarrassment, and the series of brand new theatrical cartoon shorts were all canceled... some of which were already finished. This film made the company realize there doesn't seem to be any clear future for the Tunes, except for the occasional television special, a faithful new TV series and some controversial updates (at least until The Looney Tunes Show). Still however fans have been known to state the movie is much better than Space Jam, bringing the characters back to their roots, and has gained a cult following on DVD. In fact, many claim one of the main reasons the film failed at the theaters was due in part to the lousy marketing of Warner Bros.

Also worth noting that this is the last film to be scored by composer Jerry Goldsmith before he passed away after a long struggle with colon cancer (his illness kept him from completing the film, with the final reels scored by John Debney). It is also Peter Graves' final film appearance.

Tropes used in Looney Tunes: Back in Action include:

D.J: What I really do is I... I'm a stunt boy!
Daffy: HA! You, a stunt boy!? Please!
D.J.: I am! You seen those Mummy movies? I'm in them more than Brendan Fraser is!

    • Fridge Brilliance: A lot of Fraser's commentary for the first Mummy movie is him pointing out stunts he didn't do.
    • Taken to extremes when D.J confronts 'Brendan Fraser' and punches him out for getting him fired.
    • Timothy Dalton is D.J.'s father, who's a British secret agent.
  • Adam Westing: Besides playing D.J. Drake, Brendan Fraser also plays...Brendan Fraser. Who ends up being a complete Jerkass and punched in the face by D.J.
  • Advertised Extra: Tweety, who (not counting the scenes where he is really Taz in disguise) appears in just one scene. (It should be noted that, according to the Deleted Scenes featurette, Tweety originally was intended to actually take part in the film's original climax, in which DJ zaps him with a Blue Monkey, which turns him into a Pterodactyl, and he then eats the Chairman.) Even more so the Road Runner, who despite appearing for just a cameo that consists of running past the screen, is prominently shown on the DVD cover.
  • The Alleged Car: The first car that Daffy and DJ get into when they leave DJ's house. It falls apart as soon as they try to start the engine the second time in Las Vegas.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: After Bugs Bunny explains the art technique of Pointillism, he says to the audience: "I think, when you go to the movies, you should learn somethin'."
    • Which is a Call Back to Kate insisting that nothing is learned in any of Bugs' cartoons.
  • Animated Actors
  • Art Shift: Shaggy and Scooby Doo have a short cameo threatening bodily harm to Matthew Lillard in the studio cafeteria after seeing his performance of the former in the live action film. They are rendered in the same art style as the Scooby Doo cartoons.
    • Arguably the best scene in the whole film: the Louvre chase, where Elmer chases Bugs and Daffy through each and every painting in the hallway, taking on each of their styles.
    • The relayed Civil Defense video tape has animated segments describing the villain's intent, and is animated in a more limited UPA style. ...For some reason.
  • Ash Face: Appears briefly in the opening remake of "Rabbit Fire".
  • Aside Glance: Many characters do this when the ridiculousness of their situation is just too much to handle. Like when a Wal-Mart mirage shows up and they Lampshade Product Placement
  • Basement Dweller: According to Warner Bros. executives, Daffy's entire fanbase is made up of these. Never mind that he was the one who got his own series later, not Bugs.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Chairman.
  • Bland-Name Product: Earth Geographic
  • Butt Monkey / Chew Toy: Daffy's status as this is what causes him to get fired.
  • Cameo: Numerous, occasionally pitting celebrities playing themselves.
  • Celebrity Paradox: See Art Shift above. Also, as stated above: DJ Drake, played by Brendan Fraser, punches... Brendan Fraser.
    • In an Animate Actors kind of way, this trope also applies to the Looney Tunes themselves. Bugs, Daffy, Elmer, Porky, Speedy and several others are depicted as actors who did star in their real-life shorts, but Tweety, Sylvester, Taz, Yosemite Sam, Marvin and several others are just depicted as people who hase seemingly no connection to the Warner Bros. studio.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Daffy's bill detaching from his face.
  • Cool Car: The Spy-mobile
  • Creator Backlash: Since the film came out, Joe Dante has really only discussed this movie publicly just once. The one time he did all he could talk about was the Executive Meddling behind it, and "the less said about [the movie], the better." He did say though that "At least it's better than Space Jam".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bugs, Daffy, and especially DJ.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Kate, with modern day sensibilities, very much doesn't appreciate Bugs' Getting Crap Past the Radar style of humor.
  • Disaster Dominoes: On a smaller scale than most disasters, but Daffy still makes a big mess when he crashes the Batmobile into the Warner Water Tower.
  • Duck Season! Rabbit Season!: Both played straight at the beginning, and later subverted later on after Daffy's been fired from Warner Bros.

Elmer Fudd: Say your prayers, wabbit! It's wabbit season!
Bugs Bunny: Duck season!
Elmer: Wabbit season!
Bugs: Duck season!
Elmer: Wabbit season!
Bugs: Wabbit season!
Elmer: Wait a minute... * looks at script*
Bugs: See, I told you this wasn't gonna work without- * Elmer shoots him*

    • One would think this evidently leads to The End of the World as We Know It, since it ends Bugs' historic survival instinct (besides cross-dressing which he was discouraged from doing anymore due to how modern audiences perceive the act). He really milks his injuries for all their worth in front of the big executives too. Like all classic cartoons, he gets better by the next shot.

Bugs: Oooooh the paaaaain! Ooooh the agoneeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yosemite Sam: Throw it out the window! Throw it out, throw it out!
Mook 1: But innocent people could be hurt...
Sam: THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW!
Mook 2: It'll send the wrong message to children!
Sam: THROW IT OU- *explosion* OOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!

  • Executive Meddling: Reportedly, a lot. Tons of scenes that were in the middle of animation were cut by the producers. Not to mention the lousy marketing.
    • Also given several Take That moments in the movie.
  • Face Heel Turn: Elmer revealing his employment with Acme is almost certainly an excuse for him describe himself as "secwetwy eviw".
  • Face Palm: Daffy: "You know, I'm beginning to think that this one is the spy car!" * Bugs facepalms*
  • Fake-Out Opening: The film starts like with a homage to the Duck Season! Rabbit Season! trilogy, only to reveal that it's Daffy reading his script, spouting his frustration of the formula of "Daffy gets blasted."
    • The deleted scenes had a very different opening for the film, which features Daffy as a superhero fighting an evil Elmer Fudd and his organ operated robot-thingy (a Crazy Awesome opening not so different from Toy Story 3)--only to reveal that it's Daffy trying to pitch a film idea, with the Warner Bros. complaining that he killed Elmer in the end.
      • To be fair, Elmer wasn't too happy about it either.
  • Five-Bad Band: Acme Corporation
  • Franchise Killer: The faltering merger of Time Warner and AOL caused all official merchandise to end years earlier. But this film! This film put an end to any major Looney Tunes production for good... and only until five years later would someone revive them into a television show!
  • Funny Background Event: Usually Bugs and Daffy are making snarky visual commentary while the humans are freaking out.
    • In the studio cafe scene during Bugs' discussion with Kate, Ralph the coyote is seen about to eat a (live) sheep sandwich but gets clobbered by Sam the sheep dog. Later in that same scene, the man from "One Froggy Evening" steals Michigan J. Frog and dashes away.
    • While in the desert, Wile E. Coyote launches a missile at the main characters but it comes back towards him. Then we cut to the main characters, a small explosion is seen way in the background.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: When the flying car runs out of gas, it stays in the air until someone points out that laws of physics says they should be falling.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Ron Perlman as a wimpy Acme exec is about as far from Clay Morrow as you could possibly imagine.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Bugs and Daffy seem to take a backseat to D.J. and Kate throughout most of the movie.
  • Hypocritical Humor: While the gang wanders across the desert, Kate admits she never wanted to work in comedy, she wanted to work in movies about the human condition with social relevance.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: Bugs gets the heroes from one location to the next by simply lifting the current shot to the next one.
  • Insult Backfire: DJ calls the Chairman evil, yet the Chairman is too speechless to properly thank him enough for the generous compliment!
    • Another one would be in where Daffy tells DJ he liked him better as a monkey, and he says "thanks" from it.
  • Interface Spoiler: The DVD's scene (chapter) selection menu reveals there is a Stinger at the end.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Lots of it. Mostly done by Kate, who will explain from a corporate standpoint, why they should allow this.

Yosemite Sam: (after slipping on a banana peel). Dadburn slapstick cliches!" ::opens fire on the banana peel::

    • The crash-landing scene:

(car stops a foot from the ground)
Bugs: "Well, whadaya know. Outta gas!"
Kate: (As scene begins to fade out) "What? That's not how it works!"
(fadeout disappears and car smashes into the ground)
Bugs: "...thanks, toots."

  • Massive Multiplayer Crossover: The Area 52 scene, featuring a Triffid plant, the eponymous Robot Monster, the mutant from This Island Earth and even Daleks, among others. Those last ones were accidentally included without the consent of the Terry Nation estate, for the record. (Keep in mind that the movie was released in 2003 whereas Doctor Who would only return in 2005.)
    • Forget Kevin McCarthy mumbling about how they're here?
      • Well, it is a Joe Dante movie; he had to make an appearance somewhere in there... along with Dick Miller.
    • Steve Martin only agreed to do this movie on the condition that they had Daleks in the Area 52 scene.
      • Is Doctor Who his favorite show?
      • Entirely by coincidence, this movie was released November 14, 2003, NINE DAYS before the fortieth anniversary of Doctor Who.
  • The Millennium Age of Animation
  • Mythology Gag: "Let's do some drills."
    • "Thith doesthn't make a lick a' sensth."
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight then subverted when Mr. Chairman orders Marvin the Martian to destroy Daffy.

Mr. Chairman: Destroy the duck, and when I say destroy the duck, I mean kill him! Kill him painfully and maliciously.

ACME Chairman: You see, if the Train of Death doesn't kill him, tthen those crates of TNT will. Not to mention the 2-ton anvil hanging over his head, and-- Oh, look. There's the Pendulum of Doom! What's the Pendulum of Doom doing there?! I did not order the Pendulum of Doom! It's overkill! Get rid of it!

  • Noodle Incident: Bugs: "Daffy learns never to stick his head in a jet engine!"
  • Picture Pastiche: During the art museum chase; it's also revealed via x-ray glasses that the Mona Lisa has a bra and a skeleton.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Porky and Speedy Gonzales are seen commiserating that they can't find work because of this trope.
  • Product Placement: Lampshaded when a Wal-Mart shows up out of nowhere in the middle of the desert. Everyone gets into the act pointing out the absurdity of it, but Bugs gets the best quip.
    • "How nice of that Walmart to give us all these free Walmart merchandise and Walmart beverages in return for saying Walmart so many times"
  • Black Comedy Rape: Parodied by Pepe Le Pew (big surprise there)

DJ: There's a... man whose got a woman. She's tied up in a burlap sack. He's taking her to the Eiffel Tower.
Pepe: Ahh! It is spring. Is it not?

  • Retcon: The whole reason this movie exists (see opening paragraph for an explanation). It managed to be truer to the characters and humor than Space Jam, but barely anyone saw it in theaters!
  • Road Movie
  • Robot Dog
  • Rule of Funny: As opposed to Space Jam, which had a more conventional plot, this is basically a Looney Tunes short extended to 90 minutes that just happens to be partially-made in live-action. Accept this, as it's the only way you could possibly enjoy the movie.
  • Scooby Dooby Paintings
  • Shout-Out: "Hey, whadda ya know? I found Nemo!"
    • Bugs recreates the iconic scene from Psycho.
    • There's a scene in the casino of every Looney Tunes dog character playing poker.
    • There is also a couple of Daleks in Area 52.
  • Shown Their Work: When Elmer confronts the heroes at gunpoint, Bugs asks, "What gives, Doc? We made 35 pictures together!" If you count only the theatrical shorts (not any made-for TV shorts such as "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers"), 35 is the amount of cartoons Bugs and Elmer appeared in together.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Don and Dan Stanton show up as "Mr. Warner" and "Mr. Warner's Brother". Joe Dante fans might remember them as the grown-up versions of Ernest and Bertram Wilson from Eerie, Indiana.
  • Slapstick
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Bugs and Daffy do this when Bugs has plans to help Daffy get his job back. And they even push the split-screen line back and forth, into one another!
  • Starring Special Effects
  • Stealth Pun: As DJ and Daffy go into the garage, the theme from Gremlins (which was also directed by Dante and whose score was also composed by Jerry Goldsmith) sneaks into the music. Guess what model of car they drive off in.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: When Daffy enters DJ's home, he sees all of Damian's movie posters and thinks that DJ is the son of a famous spy. DJ explains to Daffy that Damian must be a spy who maintains the persona of a famous actor playing a spy as a cover. He's completely right, naturally.
  • Take That: Two in one scene: First one, see Celebrity Paradox above. Meanwhile at a nearby table...

Porky Pig: F-f-first they told me to lose the stutter, now they tell me I'm not funny anymore! [sigh] It's a pain in the butt being p-p-politically correct.
Speedy Gonzales: You're telling me.

    • Also, during Mr. Chairman's succession of unmaskings, one of the disguises is... Michael Jordan. Which is quickly discarded.
    • Ron Pearlman's character (the VP who gets devoured by Taz), is a not-too subtle caricature of Ted Turner.
  • Take That, Audience!: Kate reports that Bugs Bunny is popular with both men and women of all ages and nationalities, whereas Daffy Duck is only popular with "fat, basement dwellers."
  • Talking to Himself: Brendan Fraser playing three different characters, one of them even punching another near the end.
  • Talking with Signs: Wile E. Coyote

"They don't pay me enough."

Kate: "You can't fire me! My films have made $950 million."
CEO: "That's not a billion."

  • Viva Las Vegas: Though D.J. and Daffy never actually get to enjoy the sights, D.J. goes undercover as a dancing extra behind a correspondence, they get their first clue on their search from a dancer played by Heather Locklear, the Head of Acme hires Yosamite Sam to catch them, and it's where they meet up with Bugs and Kate!
    • Bugs even sings the song while driving there.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Bugs feels this way about Daffy being fired, and eventually Kate sees the error of her ways too.
  • Wrong Turn At Albuquerque: Lampshaded.

Daffy: "Don't start that again!"

  • You Have Failed Me...: Mr. Chairman has Taz eat one of the VPs for questioning him. Also, a Deleted Scene reveals the reason why the VPs had to press their buzzers before speaking up.

VP: Is that a rhetorical question?
Chairman: [grins evilly] Oh goody. You forgot to press your buzzer.
[The VP gets covered in plastic wrap]