Defending Looney Tunes

The Ring 2

JC: Wow...Noel liked a film that's getting mostly negative reviews.

Chris D: Even Ebert didn't approve!

But then Noel liked Looney Tunes, something I find impossible to fathom.

But, heck, we all have a propensity for a critical failure every now and then.

JC: Yeah...I thought it was weird that Noel listed "Looney Tunes: Back In Action" as a favourite as well.  I mean, I kind of liked the movie, but it really seemed like little more than warmed-over "Roger Rabbit".  Worth a $2.00 rental, and that's about it.  We'd better watch it though, or Noel will turn us all into MONKEYS!!!  :)

David Ehrenstein (again) liked it. But we're both Joe Dante fans (him more than me). Gremlins 2 is a masterpiece. 

I think Looney Tunes is superior to Roger Rabbit. It's unencumbered by any pretense to a story, and it has a genuinely subversive spirit. Zemeckis, on the other hand, is a comic filmmaker with deeply conservative feelings (Rabbit tried to be moving, big mistake).  

And (again), it's by Dante, a far better filmmaker than Zemeckis.

Was looking at parts of Death Becomes Her--maybe the last decent Zemeckis flick. Wonderful acting by Hawn, Streep (much prefer her in comedies), Willis, and a glorious little gem of a cameo by Sidney Pollack as a heart-fluttering doctor ("It appears her neck is broken--well, I can't be sure without an X-Ray. But that protrusion of the bone under the skin--that isn't good.").

Almost spoiled by a moral message ("make of life what you can"), but Streep and Hawn make hay of that little nugget. Yes, Dante does include a moral or two in his movies, but he makes it clear he takes it no more seriously than we do; Zemeckis actually believes in the crap he's preaching (Contact, anyone?).

ted fontenot: Well, you don't get much more cynical than Used Cars, a movie I like a lot. Very inventive, had its own comic spirit. Back to the Future is pretty damn good, too. Unfortunately, it's a movie many people who see it at a certain time in their life think they later have to negatively overreact to show they have grown.

JC: Noel, I can see what you're saying about the "subversive spirit" of "Looney Tunes: Back In Action", but I thought the film was worth a rental, and little more.  As I was watching it, I thought, "Well, this is fun, but totally disposable."  It's too dependent on movie parodies and in-jokes to generate any real interest of its own.  The action isn't particularly well-staged, either.  The Louvre scene really is the only sequence I felt was all that inspired.  The "Gremlins" sequel is underrated...there's some smart satire at work there.  (So, are you about to tell me that "Small Soldiers" is better than "Toy Story"?)

I'll agree that Zemeckis isn't a great filmmaker, but IMO, "Roger Rabbit" is his one great film.  I came to this after my nieces' repeated viewing of the film, and my realization that damnit...this one holds up extremely well.  It's got a terrific script, with tongue firmly in cheek, and evokes a classic period in animation.  I don't think it takes itself too seriously at all.  Bob Hoskins gave a wonderful performance in this, and Christopher Lloyd was effectively creepy as Judge Doom.  Heck, even Mr. Rosenbaum has it on his Top 1000 list.

I stop at Small Soldiers. Joe vs the Volcano,which David loves, I still don't get--but i haven't seen all of it.

In-jokes and parodies can be unfunny, 98% of the time; what Dante did was to pile on the in-jokes and parodies and self-reflexive jokes willy-nilly until it became a style all its own, a 'can you top this?'whirlwind comparable to the early silent greats.

And who can dislike a movie that has Daleks in it?!

Used Cars

I like that; that's excellent Zemeckis. But it's also early Zemeckis, back when he was out to prove something. Back to the Future was wonderful fun, tho I didn't like the 'model family and home' subtext. And I guess I do like the middle portion of Castaway too.

Cheryl Powell: You guys are making me want to see Looney Tunes though. I sat through Space Jam (at a theater back when there was such a thing as a $2 matinee, and this is Chicago, it's the law here we had to see Michael Jordan's movie) and hated what they did with Bugs' personality in that one.

JC: I'll certainly give the film (Looney Tunes) another look in the coming years.  On first viewing, it just seemed like yet another bombastic, overblown action-comedy that served as little more than an ad for Warner Bros. merchandise (yep, they even got a plug for "Batman" in there...and let's not forget WalMart).  Also, Fraser and Elfman didn't interact nearly as convincingly with the cartoon characters (despite the substantial advancements in technology!) as Hoskins did in "Roger Rabbit"...that aspect of the filmmaking felt more rushed to me...or perhaps Hoskins was simply more attuned to the physical nature of the role.  The bit with Elfman turning into a cavegirl was utterly degrading to the actress, and pandered, big-time, to the teenage male audience.  Steve Martin almost completely missed the mark in a self-consciously over-the-top performance.  Not a single line from the movie stayed with me.  And I'm all for pop-culture references, but mimicking a scene from "Psycho" barely qualifies as a joke.  It's like that scene in the awful Leslie Nielsen vehicle, "Spy Hard", where he and a female companion dress up and dance like Travolta and Thurman in "Pulp Fiction":  if you're not going to offer up some form of commentary on the original scene, what's the point?...where's the comedy? 

As for "Roger Rabbit", despite an irreverant, and yes, subversive tone, it still manages to tell an elegantly-constructed, timeless story with some degree of heart, and more importantly, soul.  And it typically sidesteps the cheap, transitory gag, which is a great deal more than can be said for LT:BiA.  But I'll give the former a second chance, and see if I'm wrong about this...I severely doubt it, though.  

 Cheryl Powell

I certainly don't feel as strongly about "Looney Tunes: Back In Action" as Mr. Vera does, but rest assured, it'sa masterpiece compared to "Space Jam".

Hoo, boy, to paraphrase: I saw Space Jam; I tasted Space Jam; I smelled Space Jam, and ma'am, Looney Tunes is no Space Jam.

Dante's on record as saying he was making the movie to be the exact opposite of Space Jam; in fact, the unofficial title of the picture was The Anti-Space Jam.

True Bob Hoskins does a miracle of a performance in Roger Rabbit--maybe the only thing there that I actually liked. But humans are irrelevant in Looney Tunes; those are Bugs and Daffy, back up there onscreen in all their anarchic majesty (I'm thinking Roger's biggest mistake was the rabbit--all whine and whackiness, very little charisma or real wit).

Actually, I thought both Joan Cuzack and Steve Martin were the only ones who kept up with the toons--Cuzack by playing mother hen to a nestful of hand grenades (aliens in mason jars, forsooth!), Martin by gleefully condescending to his employees (no wonder he wants to turn everyone into monkeys).

It isn't just the Psycho parody that made the film funny--it was the Psycho parody plus the Walmart jab plus the Triffid, plus the Robot Monster, plus the Daleks, plus the Area 51 jokes, plus the Indiana Jones homage plus the Bond references plus the Star Wars parody--and that's just off the top of my head. It's not a single line or moment, it's a whole wobbly pile of them, pressing down and generating critical mass.

I mean, I dislike parody/homage comedies as much as the next guy--I've seen the Police Story! series, the first movie, and the less and less funny sequels; ditto the Airplane! movies (Top Secret!, however, seems to have aged well). I've seen all three Scary Movies and a few of the stuff Nielsen and Sheen (and Assante and Lovitz and Young and Carrere) have made. This one seems different. If I were to try pinpoint the difference, I'd say it's (edit) a matter of degree--in the timing, the inventiveness, the utter determination to go for the odd punchline.

And Dante's a filmmaker, unlike Jim Abrahams, the Zucker and Wayan brothers and even Carl and Rob Reiner, who couldn't stage a comic sequence to save their lives (they used to make funny movies, though, those lasttwo...).

Chris D: C'Mon! Airplane!'s a classic!

It's got a few great jokes--heck, many of them have at least one or two thigh-slappers. I kind of like Top Secret! overall; it even has a nice look--a parody of '40s colored war films.

Come to think of it, Reiner's The Man With Two Brains has a look--but that's mainly because his cinematographer happened to be Michael Chapman. And Reiner's much better when he's trying to be silly on his own terms rather than merely doing parodies (That was Brooks's specialty--well, it used to be, once upon a time).

On Rabbit's heart--I don't know. When I watch the movie again, the parts with Hoskins mooning over his dead brother and talking about his history with regards to Toontown (rehashed from Chinatown) felt like the most tiresome bits. Maybe the highlight was Daffy vs. Donald, and that wasn't even very inspired. Well, I did like Kathleen Turner's voice.

Death Becomes Her, however, still makes me chuckle. And consequently, still moves me.

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