Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Movie a Day: Looney Tunes: Back in Action (Joe Dante, 2003)

I'm a huge Looney Tunes fan. I think the work they did, particularly from their inception in the early 1930s through the late 1940s, represent the finest animation ever produced. Each frame flows to the next, the timing of the jokes are impeccable, and the sense of complete mayhem has yet to be matched - Looney Tunes remains the only narrative in which absolutely anything could happen.

Which is why I love Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Though not as ceaselessly funny as the best of the classics - Draftee Daffy, The Great Piggybank Robbery...well, anything by Bon Clampett, let's you and I be honest about this - Back in Action is great for its liveliness, entertainment value, and, yes...absolute mayhem.

In what other film could you travel from Nevada to Paris by pulling back the screen? Have a secret government base populated by an assortment of movie monsters, aliens, and robots from years past, never mind a guy randomly scrubbing a brain? A Nascar driver asking for his racing car from the valet? A corporate higher-up getting torn apart, leaving only a skeleton, which then responds to the incident? A bodyguard ripping off his skin to reveal the Tasmanian She-Devil, who then instantly gets married to the Tasmanian Devil? So many frames packed to the gills with information? As Keith Uhlich said in a recent revisit to the film, "How many comedies, animated or otherwise, use the screen in so many ways like this?"

If nothing else, how many corporate films are so blazingly anti-corporation? Everything, from the corporate-speak-as-joke to the Wal-Mart appearance to Bugs Bunny casually dismissing attempts to give him a PC-friendly female counterpart. But there is so much else in this film, and reading over the Best of the Decade Derby (linked to above), I realized how much I missed, even having seen the movie twice through. Never mind comedies, how many films, period, use the screen in so many ways? How many use that ultra-wide aspect ratio to cram so many jokes that will go unnoticed?

Films like this are worth treasuring. They're not perfect, but they try a thousand times harder for a pretty astounding return.

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