Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a 2003 American live action/animated comedy film featuring Looney Tunes characters. It is the third feature-length Looney Tunes film, after Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Space Jam (1996). It was made following the success of Space Jam (1996), to which it was originally developed as a direct sequel, titled Spy Jam. This was the final film to be produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation. The film was released on November 14, 2003.
Sick of ceding the spotlight to Bugs Bunny (Joe Alaskey), Daffy Duck is unceremoniously fired by studio boss Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman) when he demands equal pay and billing. Daffy goes on a studio lot rampage, taking down security guard D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) in the process, who is also sacked. But when D.J.'s A-list actor dad (Timothy Dalton) is kidnapped by the evil Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin), D.J. and Daffy try to rescue him, while also being pursued by Kate and Bugs.
Why It's Back in Action
- The film is very faithful and memorable to the franchise and the original source material by having the charm the Looney Tunes stood for from all these years.
- The animation is a step up from the previous Looney Tunes live-action hybrid film Space Jam, with famed Disney animator and veteran Eric Goldberg directing the animation.
- The concept of D.J. Drake, Bugs, Daffy and Kate saving the former's father (who is a both an actor and a spy) from being run over by a train on railroad tracks full of dynamite and all of mankind from the blue monkey diamond in Africa into monkeys shows how this is what made Looney Tunes work.
- Joe Alaskey did a very good job voicing both Bugs and Daffy, with great acting from the live-action actors of the film.
- Great humor containing numerous references to the Looney Tunes' history and more. For example, the beginning of the movie makes a reference to The Hunting Trilogy, a series of famous Looney Tunes shorts directed by Chuck Jones.
- The dialogue is really great.
- Jerry Goldsmith's score is very enjoyable and memorable. It's worth mentioning this was his last soundtrack prior to his death in 2004, so one could say he closed his career with a golden key.
- Great moments and sequences, such as the painting chase scene with Bugs and Daffy teaming up against Elmer Fudd.
- Great choice of pop culture references used in the movie like the scene where Shaggy tells off Matthew Lillard for his performance as Shaggy in the live-action film adaptation of Scooby-Doo and Michael Jordan (who was in Space Jam) making a cameo appearance. The classic Tim Burton Batmobile also makes a cameo appearance too.
- The one scene where Bugs, Daffy, Kate and D.J. Drake see a Walmart and enter in there really makes a good joke with regards to product placement.
- A lot of characters (besides Bugs and Daffy) from Looney Tunes cartoons past and present appear everywhere the entire film. Duck Dodgers even gets an appearance despite the fact he is Daffy Duck.
- The post-credits scene in the very end of the movie was very funny.
- The villain, Mr. Chairman (played by Steve Martin), is very zany, silly and a very entertaining villain.
- The Running Gag when Mr Chairman's TV kept on playing the Merrie Melodies short "I Love To Singa"
- The movie doesn't take itself seriously, is fully aware of its dumb premise and wild shenanigans and knows it's only meant to be comedic entertainment.
- Although Daffy and Bugs are the main focus, it focus more on the human characters than the Looney Tunes, but it isn't really that distracting or noticeable, as Bugs and Daffy are important characters.
- Some gross-out humor, despite that it can still be funny for some. Such as the one fart joke with Taz, and, the one scene with Bugs burping after munching a carrot.
- The poster is kind of misleading, While Tweety, Taz and Roadrunner are in the movie, they aren’t given that much screen time.
Looney Tunes: Back In Action was initially set for release in July 2003, but was postponed due to Disney's Finding Nemo becoming a smash hit in its original May release. Afterwards, it was finally released in November (the start of the Thanksgiving holiday season), but due to heavy competition from other family friendly films such as Elf and The Cat in the Hat as well as Warner Bros.'s refusal to heavily promote the movie following its chaotic production and overrun budget, the film flopped at the box office, earning only $22 million domestically and $46.5 million overseas for a worldwide total of $68.5 million against its $80 million budget. New animated shorts and a Duck Dodgers TV series were commissioned to tie-in with Back in Action. However, due to the film's financial failure and studio closure, the Looney Tunes franchise remained primarily on television for nearly two decades. Warner Bros. would not make another animated film on their own again until in 2014, where they released The Lego Movie under their newly-formed Warner Animation Group banner. Likewise, Warner Bros. would not produce another theatrical Looney Tunes film until Space Jam: A New Legacy, which was released in July 2021.
Despite its financial disaster at the box office, the reviews and reception of the film were mostly positive reviews from critics and fans of the Looney Tunes; it was proven to be more critically successful than Space Jam. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 56% based on 138 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "The plot is a nonsensical, hyperactive jumble and the gags are relatively uninspired compared to the classic Looney Tunes cartoons.". At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score a 64 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper both gave the film two thumbs up (Roger also gave the film 3 out of 4 stars). Years after 2003, the movie did gain a cult following among Looney Tunes fans.
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.
- This was the last movie scored by Jerry Goldsmith before his death in 2004, a year after the movie's release.
- This was the last film and project produced by Warner Bros. Feature Animation, which shut down the year the film was released.
- The opening song of the movie does have a name, it is called "Life Story", and it shares the same opening music score as in early Looney Tunes cartoons staring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd (for example: "Rabbit Seasoning"; 1952).
- Director Joe Dante barely talks about the film in great detail. In interviews, all he said was he only agreed to direct the film in order to pay tribute to Chuck Jones (who died in 2002 and was a close friend of Dante) and that Warner Bros. gave him little-to-no creative freedom on the project other than restoring the characters to their original personalities.
- The film was originally intended to be the setup of a new series of both Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts released theatrically (much like the original series of both franchises from 1930-1969 and 1940-1967, respectively), which would've been made under the supervision of Back in Action writer Larry Doyle and started with a new Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner short titled Whizzard of Ow. Due to the film's financial disaster however, Warner Bros. cancelled several of the shorts still in development while releasing the completed ones direct-to-video; the Tom and Jerry shorts would not be released theatrically nor direct-to-video until in 2006, where they aired on television as episodes of Tom and Jerry Tales.
- Brendan Fraser did such a good job doing an impersonation of Taz that he was allowed to do the voice instead of Taz's current voice actor Jim Cummings.
- Monty Python actor John Cleese made a brief cameo in the film during the Paris sequence, but his cameo role was cut out because it serves no purpose to the movie itself.
- This movie is the last known cinema release to feature actor Peter Graves, though he is uncredited.
- Despite being a major box office bomb during original theatrical release, the film was soon rushed to home video in 2004 and has managed to gain a cult following ever since among Looney Tunes fans.
- Eric Goldberg not only animated the Looney Tunes characters in the movie, but also voiced Marvin the Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Speedy Gonzales and Tweety, including one line for Bugs Bunny.