Wednesday, February 23, 2005

DVD: Looney Tunes Back In Action (2003)

When news broke of Warner Brothers’ plans to update their classic Looney Tunes characters, I was filled with conflicting feelings. That is if contempt and disgust can be said to be in conflict.

After a few minutes in a dark room, these feelings passed. And I decided to adopt the sane, sensible approach of Mark Evanier. LOONATICS might never get off the ground. If it does and turns out as badly as it’s likely to, it won’t diminish the old cartoons in the slightest.

Besides, you never know. Warners has gone to this well before with pleasing results. TINY TOON ADVENTURES and ANIMANIACS were spun off from the Looney Tunes franchise. Of course, so was SPACE JAM.

And this film, which got lost in the shuffle of 2003’s holiday releases but which I enjoyed tremendously. After sampling the anti-LOONATICS reaction in the blogosphere, I watched it again and liked it even more. Any movie that puts Daffy Duck front and center is OK in my book.

The characters aren’t reinvented here. They’re simply grounded in contemporary pop culture as they were in their heyday. It helps that the gags in the script by veteran SIMPSONS writer Larry Doyle work. Bugs and Daffy are obviously safe in the hands of director Joe Dante, whose films show the clear influence of the original cartoons.

This movie marks the second time that Timothy Dalton has played a movie star who is also a spy, after 1991’s THE ROCKETEER. Which is equally underrated. It also features Howard Hughes as a character. Maybe I should watch that again, too.

Doyle was chosen by Warner Brothers to supervise a new wave of Looney Tunes shorts using the traditional characters. The Road Runner cartoon included on the DVD, “Whizzard of Ow,” isn’t exactly an auspicious beginning.

TV: The One Day At A Time Reunion

What do you want me to say? If I stumble onto a reunion special, odds are I’ll watch it. Even if I didn’t particularly like the show when it was on.

My one vivid memory of the series was prominently featured in the special: Valerie Bertinelli’s rendition of “Hey, Big Spender” in feather boa and heels. It had a powerful effect on me as a young man. I may in fact have passed out when it ended. The particulars are kind of hazy.

Musical episodes were a staple of many ‘70s comedy series, no doubt because the performers of the time often had song-and-dance training. Every season the rec center or the youth center or the senior center would be on the verge of bankruptcy, so the cast would be forced to put on a show to raise money. I can still remember the stars of HAPPY DAYS singing “Top Banana.” I’d like to see the gang at EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND try that.