LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION
LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION ($28) is pretty much a movie that got a bum rap at the box-office. While the Looney Tunes characters represent some of the best-loved creations in the history of animation, folks stayed away from this movie in droves, which is a shame, since LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION is a whole heck of a lot of fun. The plot of LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION finds Daffy Duck tired of being treated like a second banana compared to Bugs Bunny, which results in his termination from Warner Bros. At the behest of studio vice president Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman), security guard DJ Drake (Brendan Fraser) tries to give Daffy the boot, but ends up losing his own job from the resulting duck related mayhem.
Unable to shake Daffy, DJ returns home (with duck in hand) to discover that his father, action movie star Damien Drake (Timothy Dalton) is in actuality a real super-spy, who has been captured by the evil Chairman of the Acme Corporation (Steve Martin). Following his fatherís final instructions, DJ and Daffy head off to Las Vegas to find clues to the whereabouts of a diamond called the Blue Monkey. Meanwhile, back at Warner Bros., it turns out that the new Looney Tunes movie isnít going to work without Daffy, and Kateís job is on the line if she doesnít return to the studio with a certain "little black duck." With Bugs riding shotgun, the two set off on the road to find Daffy and DJ.
Of course, the plot of LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION is really secondary to the filmís onslaught of visual gags and self-referential humor that skews both cartoons and the movies. Gotta say I loved the Area 52 sequence that featured a bevy of science fiction movie aliens and other characters- must have been the Joe Dante influence. Speaking of director Joe Danteís influence, look for Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy and Robert Picardo to make appearances, not to mention genre movie director Roger Corman. The cast of LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION also features Heather Locklear, Joan Cusack, Mary Woronov and Ron Perlman, plus the vocal talents of Joe Alaskey, Jeff Bennett, Billy West, Eric Goldberg, Bruce Lanoil, June Foray, Bob Bergen, Casey Kasem and Frank Welker.
Warner Home Video has made LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. As expected, Warner pulls another great looking presentation out of the rabbit hole. The image appears sharp and pretty nicely defined. Certain shots that marry animation and live action photography donít appear as hyper-realistic as other new films that havenít been processed in this manner, but Dean Cundeyís cinematography is otherwise quite good. Colors are very vibrant, and not surprisingly, sometimes verge upon the cartoony. Still, flesh tones always come across in an appealing manner and there are no signs of chroma noise or smearing of the more intense hues. Blacks are inky, whites appear crisp and the image produces smooth contrast and a solid level of shadow detail. The film element used for the transfer appears virtually pristine, without any really appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are always well contained.
LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION comes with a fine sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. The sound mix isnít a wacky and aggressive as it could have been, but the sound designers make good use of the discrete nature of the digital format to bounce effects around the soundstage. The surround channels are quite active and integrate well into the forward soundstage. Musical fidelity is very good, plus the sound effects come across in a convincing manner. The bass channel is very potent- with a few moments certain to rock the Casbah. Dialogue is well-recorded, natural sounding and totally understandable. French and Spanish 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Animation and sound serves to enhance the interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. Starting things off is a Behind The Tunes featurette, which runs eight minutes and features Bugs and Daffy as tour guides to the production. Bang, Crash, Boom! is a seven minute look at the special effects that also features Bugs and Daffy as hosts; the program gives one an inkling how the filmís live action is combined with the animated characters. Looney Tunes Out Of Action: Best Scenes Youíve Never Seen has Bugs and Daffy introduce a series of deleted or alternate versions of scenes in the movie- including alternate opening and ending sequences. Whizzard Of Ow is a newly produced animated short featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner doing what they do best. A theatrical trailer closes out the extras, although the disc does offer some DVD-ROM enhancements.
As I stated above, LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION is a whole heck of a lot of fun and really should have done better at the box office. The wide screen DVD looks and sounds great, so donít miss this opportunity to check out LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION for yourself.
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