In this morning’s movie, we see the Mona Lisa…
…and we see Shaggy and Scooby dressing down Matthew Lillard for his impersonation, so you just might think I arrange these TV shows and features so our wonderful kid would appreciate some of the jokes in this excellent and hilarious movie a little more. And you’d be right, except I was doomed to fail. The kid laughed so hard over the sight gags that I swear he missed every funny thing that the characters were saying, and I don’t know what I was thinking, expecting him to recognize Matthew Lillard after seven whole days had passed. Oh, well.
So I might be a shade disappointed, but our son certainly wasn’t. We watched Looney Tunes: Back in Action and it’s become, yet again, one of the funniest films he’s ever seen. I don’t think anybody was expecting that in 2003. The film was a huge flop, largely because money-making garbage like Space Jam had convinced the world that Warner Brothers had lost every conceivable clue they ever had, and audiences stayed away in droves because Michael Jordan was not one of the star attractions. Oddly, Warner even proved this with one of the special features on our edition: a Duck Dodgers cartoon called Attack of the Drones which does not appear to have a single joke in it. There are five other cartoons made around the same time on the Blu-ray. I don’t plan to ever watch any of them.
But the feature itself was an incredibly pleasant surprise when I took my older kids to see it seventeen years ago. Director Joe Dante, who gave his old pals Dick Miller and Roger Corman cameo parts, created a ridiculous and very, very funny world that draws from so much of popular culture that there’s just no way I could have prepped the kid for every gag in it. This is definitely a film to keep around and prompt your kids to rewatch as they get older. I mean, I’d completely forgotten that among Joan Cusack’s captives and henchmen at Area 52, the Robot Monster’s hanging out in a Mason jar. I remembered that she had a couple of Daleks, Robby the Robot, the thing from This Island Earth and poor old Kevin McCarthy, still in black and white, but I forgot the Robot Monster.
So if you’ve never seen this movie, or if you’ve been avoiding it like the plague because you know how terrible Bugs Bunny cartoons have been since about 1962 and you heard this one is so desperate for contemporary relevance that it features a cameo from a NASCAR celebrity and a gag about Wal-Mart, I promise it’s a million times funnier than it has any right or reason to be. The plot concerns an aspiring stuntman played by Brendan Fraser and a Warner Brothers executive played by Jenna Elfman on a globetrotting search for Timothy Dalton, who is an incredible superspy who poses as an actor who makes superspy movies. Bugs and Daffy come along for the mayhem, while the supervillain in charge of Acme sends an army of animated henchmen to stop them.
Actually, the only thing about this movie that has never worked for me is Steve Martin’s portrayal of the Acme supervillain. The movie stops dead almost every time Steve Martin is onscreen. This is the only movie that you can conceivably say that about, so I guess it’s notable for that as well.
Everybody avoided this film in theaters, and they all missed out. The kid loved it, and he’ll appreciate it more and more as he gets older and the references make more sense. My favorite bits probably include the Georges Seurat sequence, Area 52, the spy car running out of gas, and Bugs getting Marvin the Martian to roll down his space rocket’s window.
But I’ll tell you what’s the best thing about this movie and its world. It’s not the idea that there are twelve or thirteen Damian Drake movies that are probably really entertaining, and it’s not that all the cartoon characters are, Roger Rabbit-like, able to interact with humans, it’s that in this world, Joe Dante established that Roger Corman directs Batman movies. Can I please jump into this picture and watch one of those, Joe?