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Looney Tunes: Back In Action

From Academic Kids

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Looney Tunes: Back In Action movie poster

Looney Tunes: Back in Action was a 2003 Warner Bros. film that combined live action and animation to tell the story of a hapless stuntman, DJ Drake (played by Brendan Fraser), who stumbles his way into a plot to possess a mysterious blue diamond in the course of rescuing his famous actor father (played by Timothy Dalton). In his globe-trotting adventure, he is aided (and confounded) by his animated Hollywood friends, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, as well as the studio executive who fired him (played by Jenna Elfman). Written by Larry Doyle and directed by Joe Dante, this film is essentially a feature-length Bugs Bunny cartoon, with all the wackiness and surrealism typical of the genre. Grossing around US$21 million (US$68 million worldwide), it was a considerably large bomb, but earned relatively positive reviews from critics.

Notably, the film was Jerry Goldsmith's last as composer. Due to Goldsmith's failing health, much of the film was actually scored by John Debney, though Goldsmith was the only credited composer.

Contents

Cultural references

One of the most entertaining features for adults is the plethora of cultural references in Back in Action. A considerable number of classic movies are referenced in quick throwaway scenes, many famous works of art are shown rather out of their normal context, and many other primarily American cultural jokes appear in the course of DJ Drake and his cartoon associates' adventures.

Cinematic references

Besides the appearance of most of the well-known Warner Brothers cartoon characters and many of their best lines ("I told ya we shoulda made that left toin at Albuquerque!"), there are visits from two other famous cartoon studios:

  • In a nod to WB arch-competitor Disney's Finding Nemo (2003), after a water tower floods the studio lot, Bugs, fishing in a boat in back of Kate's Alfa Romeo, declares, "Hey, whadda ya know? I found Nemo!", at which a small orange fish pops out of the water on his line.

There are also many live-action television and movie references. Some run throughout the film, but most are only brief scenes which merely show the characters, challenging the viewer to recall where they've seen that familiar face. A not-necessarily-complete list of such amusing references, in rough order of appearance, includes:

  • Batman and the Batmobile from the film version of Batman (1989).
  • Timothy Dalton as Damien Drake, a very James Bond-like secret agent, who also happens to share a last name with British spy John Drake from Danger Man (Secret Agent in the U.S.).
  • Daffy Duck quoting Jack Nicholson's Marine colonel Jessup ("You can't handle the truth!") from A Few Good Men (1992).
  • Bugs Bunny's black-and-white shower scene evoking the Hitchcockian thriller Psycho (1960), down to the dozens of odd angles and close-up shots, and using cartoon-appropriate chocolate syrup for fake blood. (Alfred Hitchcock reportedly used chocolate syrup for the blood in the original scene, presumably because the combination of color-tone and consistency worked well in a black-and-white film.)
  • A road trip to Las Vegas with Elvis Presley on the radio, singing the eponymous theme song to Viva Las Vegas (1964).
  • Dusty Tails (Heather Locklear), after a Britney Spears-style performance, zips up in leather like Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) from TV spy show Alias. "I also work for the Agency. Professional assassin."
  • The graffito "Hi There" on Wile E. Coyote's missile alludes to the nuclear bomb from Dr. Strangelove.
  • The four-eyed green spider creature in "Area 52" has sharp legs and moves abruptly like the arachnoid enemy of 1997 film Starship Troopers.
  • Robby the Robot, who first appeared in Forbidden Planet (1956), and was featured in many later sci-fi shows.
  • The gorilla wearing a diving helmet who utters, "There is no escape!", is right out of B-movie Robot Monster (1953), down to the flashing video negative effect.
  • The insect humanoid with the large exposed brain is from sci-fi classic This Island Earth (1955).
  • The curious pink brain-like creature with two eyestalks, tentacles, and a snakelike body is from Fiend Without a Face (1958).
  • In one of the funniest classic allusions, Kevin McCarthy reprises his role as Dr. Miles Bennell from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958), even appearing in black-and-white and carrying a pod creature. He repeats his plaintive warning from the end of that movie: "They're already here! You're next! You're next!"
  • A sly reference to another B-movie, Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965), features an uncredited Peter Graves as a Civil Defense narrator for the Blue Monkey video briefing, similar to his uncredited flying-saucer film briefing narration in the 1965 movie.
  • The weapons cabinet which suddenly pops into place evokes a similar scene from The Matrix (1999).
  • The snapping plant alludes to another sci-fi classic, The Little Shop of Horrors (1960, remade in 1986, and also a long-running musical play).
  • The conical robots yelling "Exterminate them!" are Daleks from films based on the British sci-fi series Doctor Who (distinguishable from the TV versions by the "vapor spray" weapon).
  • The dancing owlette singing "I Love to Singa", a la Al Jolson, refers to an early "classic" Looney Tunes color short, unsurprisingly called I Love to Singa.
  • The Jerry Lewis poster at the Eiffel base which reads "O┘ TROUVEZ-VOUS LA GUERRE?" ("Where do you find the war?") comes from Which Way to the Front? (1970). The movie poster displaying Lewis open-mouthed in German officer attire is authentic.
  • The cartoon ACME aide who looks and sounds like Guillermo Ugarte (Peter Lorre) from Casablanca (1942) is a variation on Warner Bros.' frequent allusions to Lorre's memorable character.
  • When multicolored Tweety birds attack Sylvester, the original Tweety, dressed in colorful African garb, yells, "Cwy fweedom!", an obvious reference to the film Cry Freedom (1987).
  • In the monkey village scene, the booby-trapped "Barrel of Monkeys", the darts, and the rock that creates a "pressed duck" (ha-ha) all pay homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
  • The ACME chairman's third disguise in the monkey village scene is basketball star Michael Jordan, who also played against a Warner Bros. cartoon cast in Space Jam (1996).
  • In a possible allusion to the final act of Flash Gordon (1980), Bugs and Daffy crash through the windows of the ACME tower with their stolen spaceship.

There are also a number of Star Wars riffs throughout Back in Action:

  • When Marvin the Martian reaches the satellite, Bugs says, "Eh, what's up, Darth?"
  • Bugs makes a double reference to the film series as he absentmindedly battles Marvin with a lightsaber while reading The Force for Dummies (which also alludes to the famous "For Dummies" series of instruction books).
  • In the monkey village, when the ACME chairman pulls off his second costume and shows himself as Damien, he says, "Look into your heart. You know it's true." DJ Drake replies, "No, it can't be true." This recalls similar dialog between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
  • When Marvin finally spins off into space after accidentally "bubbling" himself, he says, "Darn Dark Side!". This is reminiscent of Darth Vader's tumbling departure from the Death Star in the original Star Wars (1977).

Art references

In the hilarious scene at the Louvre, where Elmer Fudd maniacally pursues Bugs and Daffy into and out of paintings, many famous works of art are abused in classic zany cartoon style. A partial list of those works include:

Also, in the frenetic scene where Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer dash in and out of various doors in a hallway, they appear in many characterizations of famous art works.

Other cultural references

  • In the "Batman" stunt scene, Roger Corman, prolific B-movie director, essentially appears as himself.
  • The secret government facility, "Area 52", pokes fun at the mysterious "Area 51" facility on the Nellis Air Force Range, unacknowledged by the U.S. government, where the military is rumored to hold evidence of extraterrestrials.
  • The alien tickling scene recalls Ray Santilli's infamous "Alien Autopsy" videotape, still a popular subject of ufologists despite its lack of credibility.
  • During the chase in Yosemite Sam's casino, the participants run across some dogs playing poker, much like in Looks Like Four of a Kind by C. M. Coolidge, an oil painting better known as "Dogs Playing Poker".
  • Jeff Gordon appears as an unnamed race car owner, driving his No. 24 DuPont Rainbow Car.
  • In the desert, Daffy's beak is so hot, he cooks an egg on it, alluding to the expression "hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk".
  • The scene with the Wal-Mart in the middle of the desert mocks not only Wal-Mart's ubiquity, but also general commercial product placement in movies. The heroes hold a conversation peppered with Wal-Mart slogans and product names.
  • The ACME laptop that Wile E. Coyote uses to order his missile system has a browser that looks suspiciously like Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The website he orders it from blares an offer for free gift-wrapping that looks very much like Amazon.com's system.
  • Among the secret Area 52 videotapes locked up inside Robby the Robot are "MARS LANDING DRESS REHEARSAL" (alluding to the rumored faking of the Apollo moon landings) and "HOW SAUSAGE IS MADE" (a humorous riff on the common expectation that people might not want to eat this popular food if they observed its preparation).
  • In the opening shots of Paris, two nuns can be seen walking alongside several pairs of girls in blue dresses. This is a direct reference to the Madeline series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans.

See also

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotes by or about Looney Tunes: Back In Action.
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