Looney Tunes: Back In Action

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Fired from Warner Bros on the same day, security guard D. J. Drake (Fraser) and comedy sidekick Daffy Duck are soon off around the globe rescuing the mysterious Blue Monkey Diamond from the chairman of the nefarious Acme Corporation (Martin).


Perhaps that lame pencil-it-in-for-now title is a marketing man's idea of a joke. After all, in a world awash with Bugs Bunny backpacks and Daffy Duck duvets, it's not as if the Looney Toons have ever exactly been away.

However, having earned a hiatus from their more lucrative merchandising obligations, Bugs and co. belatedly return to more active duties under the stewardship of Joe Dante, a director whose experience with Gremlins should have schooled him in the necessary brand of mischief.

And if the 'action' promised by the title ultimately - yet somehow inevitably - turns out to be a blind stumble through odd bits of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Spy Kids, children of all ages will still sieve the plot debris for the comedy gold we really came looking for.

Luckily, for those happy to root around, Back In Action is occasionally inspired. Wily E. Coyote and Marvin The Martian both score laughs in tantalising cameos, while a gravity-defying car chase in the Looneyverse is much more daring than that one from The Matrix Reloaded.

Best of all, an astonishing sequence in which Bugs, Daffy and Porky Pig leap from painting to painting in a breathless chase through the Louvre sufficiently demonstrates just how much life modern animation techniques can breathe into these timeless characters.

Viewed as individual shorts, none of the set-pieces completely misfires - even if the amusing stuff is often relegated to the fringes where Bugs and Daffy can be found bantering as of yore. Indeed, the only real bum note is struck by Steve Martin, who makes the fatal mistake of trying to compete with the cartoons. But Martin's mugging aside, the real problem here is not the component parts, but the lack of a decent engine to drive them anywhere.

While not the lame duck that the miserable US box office might suggest, only the daffiest of fans would hail this fitfully amusing fluff as a triumphant big screen return for Warner Bros' most precious assets. A period back inaction beckons.