Looney Tunes Back in Action is a 2003 American live-action/animated, comedy/adventure film directed by Joe Dante and produced by Paula Weinstein and Bernie Goldman. Besides the eponymous Looney Tunes characters, the film stars Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin. It was released to theaters 14 November 2003 by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.
Tired of playing second fiddle to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck demands his own movie from the Warner Brothers only to receive objections by recently appointed V.P. of Comedy Kate Houghton. Kate points out through computer-generated research that Bugs' fanbase is significantly bigger than Daffy's. When Daffy asks the Warner Brothers to decide between him and Bugs, they promptly fire Daffy. Kate has to grab onto his arm as he tries to get her to reconsider her decision, and she asks D.J. Drake, an aspiring actor and stuntman working as a guard, who unbeknownst to her, is the son of action star Damian Drake, and had just come from a bad stuntman tryout, to get him to leave. However, he points out that she always has to follow her bosses' orders just to keep up with her job. While she defends herself, saying he doesn't know her, he points out he knows her position, the model of her car and its condition, because she nearly ran over him last week. Kate nearly gets distracted with a romantic fantasy while D.J. points out that Daffy ran off. Kate just tells him to go get him.
After a lengthy chase around the studios, D.J. follows Daffy to filming of the new Batman movie, where he attempts to ride off in the Batmobile. However D.J. manages to grab him just failing to notice that the Batmobile has started itself and is driving into the studio's water-tower which falls on Kate's car as she and Bugs get in to leave for lunch to discuss the movie, completely soaking the both of them. This results in D.J. losing his job too and having his uniform taken away from him.
Over lunch, Kate tries to make Bugs' new movie more educational and socially relevant, but he refuses to work with her unless Daffy is brought back, to which she is very reluctant. Meanwhile, D.J. returns home and is surprised to find that Daffy had snuck along. Daffy alternates between high optimism and extreme sadness at his career, then D.J., while attempting to get Daffy to leave, inadvertently reveals he is actually living with his father, although he defends that it is only temporary. Daffy notices the posters of D.J.'s father and says that he thinks that he is a super spy posing as an actor. Flustered by Daffy's comments, D.J. also has to answer a ringing... remote. After pointing it towards a nearby television, he accidentally finds a hidden video screen behind a painting, revealing a video call from his father telling him to go to Las Vegas to find a woman named "Dusty Tails" to get a diamond called "The Blue Monkey", and revealing that he is, in fact, a super spy. After Daffy nearly gets lost in the thoughts of grabbing an expensive diamond, he smells an opportunity, that if he joins D.J. in this treasure hunt, his heroism could be restored. D.J. and Daffy head out in an old A.M.C. Gremlin car, which Daffy thinks is a spy car, although D.J. points out that he used to deliver pizzas in the car. Despite wanting to have Daffy not involved in the mission, he has no choice but to let him tag along as he can't get him away from him much longer. They leave not knowing about the real spy car, a T.V.R Tuscan right hand drive, underneath where D.J.'s car was. As of that moment, Daffy's journey to riches had begun.
Kate tries a test take of her version of the movie script. However, Bugs is injured during a routine that requires Daffy's presence, and the clip is viewed in front of the Warner Brothers, who quickly fire Kate because she got rid of their "best duck". Despite her attempts to defend herself, she promises to rehire Daffy, which they inform her she has until Monday to do to keep her job. Meanwhile, in D.J.'s car, Daffy mocks D.J.'s guarding skills, and D.J. reveals his stuntman career to him, even pointing out that he did more stuntwork in the Mummy series than Brendan Fraser, until Mr. Fraser got threatened and decided to do all the stunts himself. Daffy gets a call from Bugs asking him to come back, but he declines because of the mission. However, the call is recorded through an ACME satellite by a henchman named Bob Smith, who takes the call to his boss, Mr. Chairman, who plans to use the diamond to take over the world and sell more merchandise. He even kidnapped Damian to prevent D.J. from getting through to him. Throughout the journey, neither party would know that the other is also after the diamond.
Kate arrives at the house to talk to D.J. and find out where Daffy went. However, after she accidentally walks in on Bugs using D.J.'s shower and then walks into a room of posters of all of Damian's movies and a photo of D.J. and Damian together, revealing their familial connection, Kate also realizes her wrongdoing by firing D.J. because she is a fan of his father and admits to Bugs that she was only trying to model her life after his. After Bugs comforts her, he reveals where Daffy and D.J. are going and they pursue them in Damian's spy car. During the ride, Bugs annoys Kate and messes with several gadgets in the car, resulting in an auto-valet service which replaces Kate's outfit with a fancy dress.
D.J. and Daffy arrive in the first obstacle of their quest, Las Vegas and walk into a casino run by Yosemite Sam, who unbeknownst to them has been given orders to stop them from getting the diamond. After Daffy goes on and on about Dusty singing the theme tune to several Damian movies, he and D.J. find Dusty Tails performing. D.J. goes backstage to talk to her, but she doesn't notice him. However, he notices the backup dancers, and disguises himself as one of them, and manages to convince her on-stage to talk to him. In her dressing room, Daffy and D.J. learn that Dusty also works alongside Damian as a spy and that Damian was assigned to take the Blue Monkey before ACME because the diamond has supernatural powers and could have disastrous results if in the wrong hands. Dusty shows them a Queen of Diamonds playing card with The Mona Lisa's face on it. Sam and his henchmen corner Daffy and blow him with a cannon into a brick wall while D.J. narrowly dodges Dusty from the explosion, taking the card in the process. He and Daffy find themselves in an endless chase in the casino, where D.J. actually shows a high level of combat and kung fu fighting skills through Daffy's encouragement to knock down the henchmen. The chase ends with a game of blackjack after the card lands in the shuffling machine. D.J. initiates multiple hits from the dealer until the card is in his hands. Sam and his henchmen pursue D.J. and Daffy across the city, leading to a car chase with Bugs and Kate being dragged into the mayhem when D.J. takes the wheel of the spy car. The heroes escape when Daffy accidentally turns on the spy car's flight ability to take them to "Mother" whilst Sam crashes into his own casino. After Kate jeers at D.J. for irresponsibility, he accidentally turns the spy car off and causes it to crash in Death Valley where they narrowly avoid serious injury when the car stops in mid-air after running out of gas according to Bugs, until crashing soon after Kate points out it doesn't work like that.
The four have to sleep near a makeshift campfire, during which Daffy reveals he envies Bugs for being so popular with so little effort, and wishes it were like that for himself. During the morning, the heroes conveniently find a Wal-Mart thanks to Daffy's and Kate's desires for more product placement on low-price brands, as pointed out by Bugs and D.J., and leave the store with several supplies of food, water and clothing after saying Wal-Mart several times. On the advice of his own father, Mr. Chairman sends in Wile E. Coyote to defeat the heroes but he fails via a misdirected missile. While D.J. contemplates travelling alone, the heroes accidentally wander into Area #52 (Area 51 created as a "paranoid fantasy") through an invisible portal where they meet Mother, a James Bond-like figure who reveals that ACME will use the diamond to turn mankind into monkeys to create the badly-functioning merchandise and then turn them back so they'll buy the products, and Damian has to destroy it in order to save humanity. According to her, the key to the diamond's location is "what lies behind her smile", referring to the face on the card. Upon hearing D.J. proclaim he wants to take over his father's mission, Mother gives D.J. new gadgets to help find the diamond.
In the containment area of the facility, Marvin the Martian receives a transmission from Mr. Chairman via his helmet, being ordered to kill Daffy and obtain the card. Upon sighting the team, he escapes from his jar prison and frees many other famous aliens, including two Daleks, from their prisons to attack and gain the card. However, before they can be fricasseed, the heroes narrowly escape while the time portal closes. They conclude the next clue is in The Mona Lisa painting in Paris, and Bugs gets the idea of travelling there quickly through a scene transition a.k.a. a page turn.
In The Louvre Museum, after contemplating stealing the painting after Kate wonders if the diamond is inside the painting, the heroes discover the playing card doubles as a viewing window and find a map of Africa behind the Mona Lisa painting and take a photo on Kate's mobile phone while Daffy tries to get into the photo. Elmer Fudd arrives to obtain the card, turning out to have been plotting against them. Bugs and Daffy flee playfully around the museum, leaping through various famous paintings until Elmer is defeated by Bugs via a fan when he jumps out of a Pointillism painting. However, while D.J. and Kate watch the chase, she is kidnapped by Mr. Smith before hearing D.J. joke about getting together with her. He now pursues the henchman in order to rescue her. When he sees him dragging her into the Eiffel Tower, he tries to use his rocket-fueled pants in order to fly up to the top of the tower, but when they take off on their own, he is ultimately forced to take Papa Bear's pants and buy a ticket to get to the top. He manages to get there just as Mr. Smith steals Kate's phone and takes off on a helicopter with Kate clinging to him to get her phone back. When she loses grip, D.J. manages to rescue her by skydiving and grabbing her, and then using his own phone as a hook to get her down safely, snapping up flowers and chocolate for her before landing conveniently at a table at a restaurant where Daffy and Bugs are. Kate is grateful to D.J. for performing a heroic and romantic act for her and embraces with him, and both are grateful to Bugs and Daffy for keeping the card, inspiring them to travel to Africa.
At ACME, Mr. Chairman attempts to show the location from Kate's phone, only the photo has Daffy's head in it, narrowly blocking the location. As a last resort, he sends Tasmanian Devil to track the four down.
The heroes travel to Africa, where they hitch a ride on an elephant ridden by Granny, Sylvester and Tweety, despite being flustered by the strange coincidence of them running into each other. They find a temple, rigged with a booby trap. Daffy accidentally sets off the trap and gets hit by a rock when he picks up a puzzle piece, but Kate finds the puzzle it was supposed to go in and uses it to find the diamond, which D.J. collects. However, Granny and the others reveal themselves to be Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smith and Taz in disguise. Mr. Chairman uses a disintegration-gun to transport himself and the heroes to ACME Headquarters and gains the diamond. Mr. Smith is revealed to be a Tasmanian She-Devil, with whom Taz quickly falls in love, and they become a couple.
Back at ACME, Mr. Chairman shows a video feed of Damian, revealing that he plans to make Damian suffer by making him face his death with a train and an enclosure rigged with explosives. Mr. Chairman tasks Marvin with travelling into space and placing the diamond onto the satellite dish, explaining it will fire an energy beam worldwide which will turn everyone into monkeys besides himself and his love interest, Mary. He takes D.J. and Kate to be tied up with no escape. However, they happen to be not far from Damian, and untie the rope with surprising ease. However, they accidentally cause an ACME Guard Dog to crash down near them and assemble himself. The dog tries to eat them and prevent them from stopping Damian's death. However, with some quick thinking, D.J. takes a stray hook and uses it to keep the dog tethered to his platform, and narrowly dives in front of the train Wile E. is conducting to save his father. Kate is relieved to see both father and son are safe while Wile is incapacitated when the train hits a rear end.
Meanwhile, Bugs and Daffy notice Marvin with the diamond, and begin to pursuit him to the satellite in their own ship. After some back and forth ramming and brief non-verbal altercation, Marvin is tricked into rolling down his ship's window and gets sucked into the vacuum of space. However, unbeknownst to Bugs and Daffy, Marvin had mysteriously clung to the bottom of their ship, now more aggrieved than ever. Once the two reach the satellite, Daffy, out of fear for his life, gets Bugs to go outside and be the hero, where he encounters Marvin once again. While Bugs fights Marvin, Daffy gets scared for his friend's safety and becomes Duck Dodgers and rushes to save the day. Although all hope seems fruitless as Marvin causes two industrial-sized energy conductors to inadvertently attract to Daffy and trap him, he manages to destroy the satellite by plugging its dish with his beak, which sprays two small stray beams from his nostrils, one heading for Earth. Bugs defeats Marvin simply by overloading his own bubble gun and trapping himself inside a bubble, but gets caught in the explosion. Daffy flies to carry Bugs back to the ship and they take off for home. One of the energy beams strikes Mr. Chairman, turning him into a monkey, who is arrested by Damian as he, D.J. and Kate rush to the scene. Damian also admits he is proud of D.J. for showing his heroics, just before Bugs and Daffy crash land into the headquarters.
Bugs credits Daffy for being the hero, but Daffy says Bugs should get the credit for inspiring him in the first place. While both argue over who should get their deserved credit, D.J. formally introduces Kate to Damian. At this point, Kate has realized she is in love with D.J., telling Damian that she is "a really big fan of his son", revealing her feelings for D.J. to both of them. While Bugs commends Daffy for achieving his hero goal, Daffy reminds Bugs that he still hasn't convinced him to come back to his movie. However, he learns the entire adventure was a part of Bugs' film, constructed to help Daffy achieve his hero goal, as the scene pulls back to reveal a movie set.
Backstage, Kate, D.J. and Damian are congratulated by the Warner Brothers, who also tell Kate that she can keep her job after all. D.J. spots Brendan Fraser, who he had mentioned got him fired earlier. D.J. gets his revenge by punching Mr. Fraser in the nose and quickly escorts Kate out of the scene so they can date.
Bugs suggests the two become equal from now on; Daffy starts cheering until he is flattened by the Looney Tunes title iris. While Porky Pig tries to say "Th-th-th-th-That's all folks!", the studio starts to close. When it's almost pitch black and the time before all the lights are turned off thoroughly, Porky gives up and says, "Go home, folks."
- Brendan Fraser as Himself and D.J. Drake, a stuntman who wishes to make his father proud.
- Jenna Elfman as Kate Houghton, the icy VP of comedy at the Warner Bros. Studios with a secret crush on D.J.
- Steve Martin as Mr. Chairman, the immature and comedic head of the ACME Corporation.
- Timothy Dalton as Damian Drake, A famous action film star and DJ's father.
- Heather Locklear as Dusty Tails, A friend of Damian who works in Las Vegas.
- Joan Cusack as Mother, A scientist at Area 52 and DJ's mother.
- Bill Goldberg as Mr. Bob Smith, Mr. Chairman's minion.
- Jeff Gordon as himself
- Matthew Lillard as himself
- Mary Woronov as Herself, Acme VP, Bad Ideas, a stuttering woman who Mr. Chairman likes.
- Marc Lawrence as Acme VP, Stating the Obvious, Mr. Chairman's father.
- Bill McKinney as Acme VP, Nitpicking
- George Murdock as Acme VP
- Robert Picardo as Acme VP, Rhetorical Questions.
- Ron Perlman as Acme VP, Never Learning
- Vernon Wells as Acme VP, Child Labor, a cruel man who dislikes children.
- Leo Rossi as Acme VP, Climbing to the Top
- Dick Miller as Studio Guard
- Kevin Thompson as Dancing Yosemite Sam
- Arturo Gil as Dancing Yosemite Sam
- Gabriel Pimentel as Dancing Yosemite Sam
- Steve Babiar as Dancing Yosemite Sam
- Martin Klebba as Dancing Yosemite Sam
- Peter Graves as Civil Defense Film Host (uncredited)
- Dakota Fanning as Little Girl on Tour (uncredited)
- Michael Jordan as himself (archive footage; uncredited)
- Joe Alaskey as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Beaky Buzzard, Mama Bear
- Jeff Bennett as Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Nasty Canasta
- Bob Bergen as Porky Pig, Ham and Ex, Charlie Dog
- June Foray as Granny
- Eric Goldberg as Marvin the Martian, Michigan J. Frog, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety
- Danny Chambers as Cottontail Smith
- Bruce Lanoil as Pepé Le Pew
- Will Ryan as Papa Bear
- Stan Freberg as Baby Bear
- Billy West as Elmer Fudd, Dr. Lorre, The Scream
- Brendan Fraser as The Tasmanian Devil, Tasmanian She-Devil
- Casey Kasem as Shaggy
- Frank Welker as Scooby-Doo, Barnyard Dawg, Spike and Chester
- Danny Mann as Robo Dog, Spy Car
- Mel Blanc as D.J.'s Gremlin Car (archive recordings)
- Paul Julian as Road Runner (archive recordings)
This was the final film Jerry Goldsmith composed music for before his death in 2004. Due to Jerry's failing health, the last reel of the film was actually scored by John Debney, though Goldsmith was the only credited composer in marketing materials and the Varèse Sarabande soundtrack album only contains Jerry's music (although the first and last cues are adaptations of compositions in Warner Bros. cartoons). John receives an "Additional Music by" credit in the closing titles of the film and "Special Thanks" in the soundtrack album credits.
- Life Story - Carl Stalling (0:18)
- What's Up? (1:24)
- Another Take (0:48)
- Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
- Out of the Bag (3:42)
- Blue Monkey (:54)
- In Style (1:09)
- The Bad Guys (2:57)
- Car Trouble (3:45)
- Thin Air (1:24) (a version of the well known Powerhouse theme plays)
- Area 52 (1:27)
- Hot Pursuit (2:26)
- We've Got Company (1:50)
- I'll Take That (1:19)
- Paris Street (1:21)
- Free Fall (1:15)
- Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
- Jungle Scene (1:40)
- Pressed Duck (3:22)
- Re-Assembled (0:51)
- Merry Go Round Broke Down (0:56)
- Hi-C - Play That Funky Music (feat.Big Steele,Drop Da Bomb,Young Dre, and Mr. Kane)
- Elvis Presley - Viva Las Vegas
- Junior Senior - Move Your Feet
- Lucky Boys Confusion - Hey Driver
- Junior Senior - Shake Your Coconuts
Budgeted at $80,000,000 but only grossing $68,514,844, Back in Action was a financial flop. There were multiple causes to the film's demise theatrically. On the front of family films, Back in Action was sandwiched between the releases of Elf and The Cat in the Hat, resulting in Back in Action being lost in the shuffle. It should also be noted that this film was released the same month as another Warner Bros. film The Matrix Revolutions, which the studio put more advertising money behind. Only the barest minimum of promotions were done to advertise the film, limited to advertising with the film's promotional partners (Wal Mart, Sprint, Wendy's, Aflac, among others) and very few television ads. Also, very little merchandise directly based on the film was released beyond toys made by Mattel, a junior novelization and a Hallmark Keepsake Ornament, among others. The film's poor box-office results discouraged Warner Bros. from releasing the newer Looney Tunes shorts that Warner Bros. Animation had completed, and they cancelled those in production. The poor box-office results also caused Cartoon Network to remove the original Looney Tunes shorts from their schedule in October 2004, and they wouldn't return until January 2009.
Despite its financial disaster, the critical response for Back in Action was mixed to positive, making it more critically successful than the previous Looney Tunes film Space Jam. As of March 28, 2011, the film scores a 57% "Rotten" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The two well-known movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper both gave the film two thumbs up (Roger also gave the film 3 out of 4 stars). Along with the critical success, the film was also nominated for Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature.
- Brendan Fraser did such a good job doing an impersonation of Taz that he was allowed to do the voice.
- During filming, Brendan Fraser was completely terrified at having to hit Bill Goldberg; Goldberg constantly told him to go ahead and do it, telling him, "It's what I do for a living."
- The character animation in this film was traditionally hand-drawn. Computer technology was used to color the animation drawings in, add tone mattes and shadows to the characters, and composite them over the live-action backgrounds. Computer animation was used on props that are held by the cartoon characters, such as a magnifying glass, a screenplay, and Bugs' carrots in the cafeteria, as well as larger objects, such as the spaceships, Wile E. Coyote's missile, and the robot guard dog at the end.
- Film director Joe Dante nicknamed this project, the Anti-Space Jam movie, showing his disdain for Space Jam.
- Deleted scenes on the DVD release reveal that the film's opening and closing scenes were much different. In the original opening, Daffy gives a plot to the Warner Brothers involving him being a superhero and fighting Elmer Fudd dressed as an insane clown riding in a large robot which is destroyed by Daffy. The brothers and Elmer object to the fact Elmer is killed in the story. The film's ending ended in the monkey ruins in the African jungle. Tweety accompanies DJ, Bugs, Daffy and Kate to the temple but is blasted by the Blue Monkey and falls into a lava pool to his death. However, he rises again as a prehistoric pterosaur who eats Mr. Chairman and the Blue Monkey. Most characters temporarily de-evolved in this scene due to being hit by the Blue Monkey's ray: Bugs into earlier animation models, Daffy into an egg, Damian Drake into a monkey, and Kate into a cavewoman. While this alternative ending was never used in the finished film, the basic idea was used in Looney Tunes: Back in Action: The Video Game, with Tweety becoming a pterosaur after being blasted by the Blue Monkey to battle that game's final Boss.
- John Cleese made a brief cameo in the film during the Paris sequence but his cameo role was cut out because it serves no purpose to the movie itself.
- This movie is the last known cinema release to feature actor Peter Graves, though he is uncredited.
- Bosko's laugh plays when Daffy smacks DJ's lips.
- Several references to the 1980s Warner Brothers movie Gremlins are in the movie, most notably during the scenes with DJ's Gremlin when small pieces of "Gremlins" theme plays in the background; Joe Dante was Director of both "Gremlins" and Looney Tunes Back In Action and these references were an homage to Dante's work in that film.
- In the junior novelization version, the beginning replaces the Rabbit Fire opening with the original opening in which Daffy dresses as Duck Dodgers and fights Elmer atop a war machine, while the ending shows an alternate fight scene in which Bugs battles Marvin with a "sugar-free" bubble gun, instead of his carrot saber.
- In the "Reader" book version, DJ and Kate don't appear, as Bugs and Daffy have the adventure on their own, and it has the original ending in which Mr. Chairman is devoured by a prehistoric form of Tweety in the African Temple.
- Despite being a major box office bomb during original theatrical release, the film was soon rushed to home video and has managed to gain a cult following ever since among Looney Tunes fans.
- The film begins with the classic "Rabbit Season, Duck Season" gag, first employed in Chuck Jones's Rabbit Fire (1951), which involves Bugs and Daffy trying to convince Elmer Fudd to shoot each other by aiming his rifle in the other target's direction, Bugs usually winning through clever word trickery. Daffy is shot multiple times by Elmer, each one with a comical outcome. This scene is later rehearsed by just Bugs and Elmer after Daffy is fired, causing confusion with the gag which concludes with Elmer shooting Bugs instead of the absent Daffy.
- During one gag in the opening scene, Bugs reappears in the matador outfit that he wore in Chuck Jones's Bully for Bugs (1953).
- At one point in the board meeting, Daffy performs a series of combat moves similar to the "Guard, turn, dodge, parry, thrust, spin" routine from Chuck Jones' Robin Hood Daffy (1958).
- Bugs briefly crossdresses as a woman, a running gag in many cartoons featuring Bugs.
- Sylvester doesn't speak in any sequences where he shares the screen with Granny, a reference to many Tweety cartoons where Sylvester remained more or less mute while Tweety got the lion's share of the dialogue.
- Bugs impersonates the two Warner Brothers by dressing in their attire and mimicking their movements. Bugs has performed similar gags in cartoons, although this can be just another form of his disguising talents.
- The suit Bugs wears in the spy car is similar to the suit he has worn during musical-themed cartoons such as Chuck Jones' Long-Haired Hare (1949).
- Wile E. Coyote's opening scene has him freeze in mid-run and a caption appears reading "Coyote: Desertus Operatus Idioticus". This is a reference to the scientific captions that describe both Coyote and Road Runner during each of their cartoon appearances. The Coyote does not speak and communicates by holding up speech signs, another reference to the cartoons. The music during his scenes also matches his movements or emotions. Coyote is also caught in numerous ACME weapons including a missile, dynamite and off-screen fireworks, a safe and a glass window.
- Foghorn Leghorn at one point strikes Yosemite Sam with a plank of wood after the latter asked him to "hit me". Yosemite Sam was actually referring to a term used in blackjack. Twisted words are often used in Looney Tunes cartoons for gags.
- A banana peel trips up Yosemite Sam during the chase scenes in Las Vegas; Yosemite Sam angrily shooting it and referring to it as a "slapstick cliché". The banana peel is a common gag item used for slapstick scenes.
- The scene where D.J., Kate, Bugs and Daffy nearly crash into the ground with the 'spy car' but eventually stop only a few feet from the ground due to being "out of gas" is a reference to the Falling Hare (1943) ending scene.
- When walking through the desert, at one point Bugs says "I told you we should make that left turn at Albuquerque." This is a reference to a line he said in a few classic Looney Tunes episodes when he got lost.
- At Area 52, Bugs holds up a classic "screwball" sign.
- Bugs mentions upon meeting Elmer Fudd that they have made 35 cartoons together. This is a fairly accurate approximation of the number of Bugs and Elmer cartoons made during the golden age of Looney Tunes.
- During the scene where Bugs, Daffy, DJ, Kate, Sylvester, Tweety and Granny travel through the African jungle, a group of wild multicolored Tweety birds appear. They tweet like normal birds but through subtitles they reveal that they are saying Tweety's catchphrase, "I tawt I taw a puddy tat".
- Mr. Smith, Mr. Chairman's bodyguard, is armed with a disintegration pistol. He uses it to disintegrate Bugs, Daffy, DJ, Kate and Mr. Chairman to the ACME Headquarters and reassemble there. The disintegration pistol is a weapon previously used by both Marvin the Martian and Daffy Duck in Chuck Jones' Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century (1953).
- Wile E. Coyote uses a large number of classic ACME weapons to try and kill Damian Drake include dynamite, a 200 ton anvil and also a Pendulum of Doom which Mr. Chairman describes as overkill. This is reference to the over-the-top weapons used by Wile E. Coyote and other characters in the cartoons.
- Duck Dodgers' flight into space is similar to his introductory announcement, involving him leaping into the air with a light shining behind him.
- As Daffy tries to fly out of the space shuttle to save the world, jetpacks on his back continuously explode without warning. This is a common gag in the cartoons, which involves items exploding without any igniting or source.
- The film concludes with Porky Pig appearing in the zoomed in ending iris trying to say "That's all, Folks!" However, in a little twist, the famous text is written beneath him, and he stutters so much that the music ends and the title is already finished writing before he can get the words out. The screen goes half-dark, and he gives up and says frustratedly, "Go home, folks!"
- In a nod to WB arch-competitor Disney and their current rival Pixar'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.
- In the WB cafeteria, a cartoon Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker) and Shaggy (voiced by Casey Kasem) from Hanna-Barbera's Scooby Doo Where Are You! series argue with Matthew Lillard about Lillard's performance as Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movie. Shaggy tells Matthew off for making him look bad in live action/CGI version, Shaggy threatens Lillard if he does it again in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Lillard's performance was praised by critics, and he eventually succeeded Kasem in 2009 or 2010 when he officially retired from voicing the character four or five years prior to his death. In this scene, in contrast to the Looney Tunes characters who were smoothly animated with extensive use of shading and reflection for three-dimensional depth, both Shaggy and Scooby appear to be roughly animated without the use of shading and reflection, perhaps in order to replicate the jerky limited animation style as reflected in the original Scooby Doo Where Are You! series and other Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows of the 1960s and 1970s.
- 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 have seen that familiar face. An incomplete list of such amusing references, in rough order of appearance, includes:
- The concept of Area 51 being only a cover for Area 52 was first used in the television program NewsRadio, in the third season episode "President".
- The Maltese Falcon is on the shelf in the WB office scene.
- The Warner Bros. mention that the VP was in charge of the movie Lethal Weapon Babies, a jab at the Lethal Weapon action movie series.
- Batman and the Batmobile from the film versions of Batman (the Batmobile is identical to the one from Tim Burton's films, while Batman himself resembles the version from Christopher Nolan's films that debuted two years later).
- The scene of DJ being fired was inspired by the opening of the 1960s TV series Branded.
- Daffy Duck quoting Jack Nicholson's Marine colonel Jessup ("You can't handle the truth!") from A Few Good Men (1992).
- 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 United States). Dalton was James Bond in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill.
- The sound effects made by D.J.'s Gremlin car are actually archive recordings of legendary Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc, voicing the sound effects of Jack Benny's Maxwell automobile.
- Bugs Bunny's black-and-white shower scene evoking the Alfred Hitchcock 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 graffiti "Hi There" on Wile E. Coyote's missile alludes to the nuclear bomb from Dr. Strangelove.
- Most of the aliens and monsters in the Area 52 scene are actual monsters from other films, including an appearance of Robby the Robot, and creatures from The Day of the Triffids (1962), Robot Monster (1953), This Island Earth (1955), The Man from Planet X (1951) and Fiend Without a Face (1958).
- The domed robotic creatures yelling "Exterminate them!" are Daleks from the British sci-fi series Doctor Who; more precisely, the models used are from the non-canon films Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD (distinguishable from the TV versions by the "vapor spray" weapon, although there seems to got circle-shaped death-Ray with it). It was at the insistence of Steve Martin that Daleks be used in that scene. This was the cause of a minor legal issue as the Daleks are owned by the estate of Terry Nation and are not in the public domain as was assumed.
- Kevin McCarthy reprises his role as Dr. Miles Bennell from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), 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, 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 is from the sci-fi movie .
- The Jerry Lewis poster at the Eiffel base which reads "OÙ 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 Blue Monkey diamond at the heart of the film's plot is most likely a reference to the Pink Panther diamond at the heart of the plot of the eponymous film, especially since a successful animated character developed from the concept. Steve Martin would go on to star in the 2006 and 2009 remakes.
- In Las Vegas, when Daffy and DJ rush to the Gremlin car, being chased by Yosemite Sam, the first few notes are from the theme from Gremlins (1984), which was also directed by Joe Dante.
- 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!", a 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" 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 with the Warner Bros. cartoon cast in Space Jam (1996) (Daffy, in a sly dig at the film's bizarre plot, exclaims "This doesn't make a lick of sense.").
- 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.
- The ACME Train of Death exploding seems to be a reference to another Warner Bros. film, The Fugitive (1993), as well as another explosive animated train wreck, in Don Bluth's Anastasia (1997).
- A possible reference is after Damien Drake throws a grenade, the guard lets out the Wilhelm Scream.
- Mr. Chairman is somewhat a spoof of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers series. Mr. Chairman does the same TV mess up that Dr. Evil did in the first film. Also, the international trailer for the film uses a piece from the Austin Powers score.
- There are also a number of Star Wars saga 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 dialogue 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).
- In the scene where Daffy Duck and DJ Drake are making their way to Las Vegas, DJ tries to convince Daffy that he is not a full-time security guard as believed and tries to make himself sound good by claiming that he is a stuntman. While Daffy laughs, DJ tries to sell this as fact and says "Have you seen the Mummy movies? I'm in there more than Brendan Fraser is." This is a reference to The Mummy and The Mummy Returns in which Fraser (DJ) stars. At the end of the film, DJ actually meets Fraser, whom he punches.
In the 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:
- Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí
- The Scream by Edvard Munch
- La Goulue by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat
In reality, however, with the exception of Mona Lisa, all the paintings shown in the film are kept on display in these respective locations instead of in the Louvre:
|Painting||Real life display location|
|The Persistence of Memory||Museum of Modern Art, New York City|
|The Scream||National Gallery, Oslo, Norway|
|La Goulue||Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands|
|A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte||Art Institute of Chicago|
Other Cultural References
- Jenna Elfman's character, Kate Houghton, was named after Katharine Hepburn. Houghton was Hepburn's middle name. Coincidentally, Hepburn died the same year the film was released.
- In the "Batman" stunt scene, Roger Corman, prolific B-movie director and the man who started Dante's career, 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 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Special movie decals added to the regular DuPont "flame" design in 2003 for the race at Phoenix International Raceway to promote the movie, as well as cars driven by Brian Vickers and Steve Park. (Jeff Gordon later makes a cameo in Disney's Herbie Fully Loaded.)
- The scene with a Wal-Mart store in the middle of the desert mocks not only Wal-Mart's ubiquity, but also general commercial product placement in films. 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 (a rival of Time Warner's Netscape). The website he orders it from blares an offer for free gift-wrapping that looks very much like Amazon.com's system.
- Joan Cusack's character is called "Mother", a reference to the head of the spy organization on the TV series The Avengers.
- Among the secret Area 52 VHS videotapes locked up inside Robby the Robot are "THE BLUE MONKEY", "MOON LANDING DRESS REHEARSAL" (alluding to the rumored faking of the Apollo moon landings), "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), and "CONGRESSMEN GONE WILD VOL. 6" (the "WILD VOL." is mainly a guess as the title is partly obscured, in probable reference to the softcore erotic Girls Gone Wild series).
- In the opening shots of Paris, two nuns are walking alongside several pairs of girls in blue dresses. This is a direct reference to the Madeline series of books by Ludwig Bemelmans.
- In one scene, DJ Drake fights with Yosemite Sam's goons, and Daffy tells him to "bite his ear!" This is a reference to boxer Mike Tyson, who bit off a portion of Evander Holyfield's ear during a boxing match, which was also in Las Vegas.
- When Yosemite Sam chases after DJ and the others in Jeff Gordon's Monte Carlo, a Mickey Mouse hat flies out the window.
- The original title for the movie was going to be Spy Jam, but it was changed because it referenced the 1996 Looney Tunes film Space Jam. Also, Jackie Chan was to be the lead actor, but quit due to production disputes.
- Main article: Looney Tunes: Back in Action/Gallery
- Shaggy: (on Lillard's portrayal of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo live action film) What kind of performance do you call that? You made me sound like a total space cadet, man.
Matthew: I'm sorry you feel that way. I was trying to be true to your character.
Shaggy: If you, like, goof up on me in the sequel, I'm coming after you.
Scooby: Reah, and Ri'll give you a Scooby smack.
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- Edelstein, David (2003-11-14). Movie Review: Looney Tunes: Back in Action. slate.com. Retrieved on 2008-02-02.
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|The Looney Tunes films|
|Adventures of the Road-Runner|
|Bugs Bunny: Superstar | Chuck Amuck: The Movie|
|Greatest Hits retrospectives|
|Centering on Bugs Bunny|
|The Bugs Bunny Road-Runner Movie | Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie | Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales | The Looney Tunes Hall of Fame|
|Centering on Daffy Duck|
|Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island | Daffy Duck's Quackbusters|
|Original cinematic material|
|Space Jam | Looney Tunes Back in Action | Space Jam A New Legacy|
|Tweety's High-Flying Adventure | Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas | Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run|
|Two Guys from Texas | My Dream Is Yours | It's a Great Feeling | A Political Cartoon | Who Framed Roger Rabbit | Gremlins 2: The New Batch | Justice League: The New Frontier|