Looney Tunes: Back In Action doesn't simply fall down between the twin stools of sloppy clag Space Jam and shiny classic Roger Rabbit. It hurtles into frame, whistling down through the air á la Wile E Coyote and lands with a thud. Nothing else would be suitable for Joe Dante's Ritalin-deprived, overstimulated kid of a movie.
A madcap effort that plasters two-dimensional wackiness onto a live-action frame, it certainly does enough to prove that Dante has Looney ink running through his veins. On the basic plotline he hangs a series of sketches and set-pieces featuring everyone's favourite gaggle of characters, naturally giving the most screen time - - and the best gags - - to Bugs and Daffy. Top of the heap is an inspired chase scene through some of the Louvre's legendary artworks, the characters taking on the artistic stylings of each painting as they enter it. The opening few scenes, set on the Warner Bros lot, also come crashing out of the top drawer, a wealth of cameos and blink-miss references sure to please fans. Who could resist the sight of a 'toon Shaggy and Scooby slagging off the star of 2002's movie, Matthew Lillard?
But once the plot does kick off, the pacing goes awry and the comic schtick becomes less appealing. It's not the leads' fault: Fraser and Elfman gamely try to keep up with their animated antagonists, the former demonstrating a comic knack that was absent from Monkeybone. It's the rest of the human cast that's the problem. Okay, Steve Martin's wicked ACME honcho raises some laughs with his Elton-John-meets-Dr-Evil preening, but it still feels Austin Powers-lite. And as for Timothy Dalton... Well, he must've figured some self-spoofery would drag him from the mire of made-for-US-TV movies and insignificant cameos. Wrong.
Still, the faithful will find plenty to enjoy and kids will be entertained by the slapstick violence. After all, the odd lag in pace is excusable when you get to see Daffy's face being blown off. Five times.
A Looney Tunes flick in a post-Simpsons era was always going to be dicey. But Joe Dante just makes it work. That's all, though, folks.