Looney Tunes: Back in Action revisits an age-old Tunes question: Why does the affable Bugs reap all the fame and glory while the egocentric Daffy gets shafted again and again? Our duck friend quite frankly has had it up to his skinny neck playing second fiddle to the carrot muncher. All Daffy wants is a little recognition from the studio but the brothers Warner (actual twin brothers as we come to find out) decide instead to let Daffy out of his contract on the advice of their no-nonsense VP of comedy Kate Houghton (Jenna Elfman). Bugs however knows they're making a mistake. Even though Daff bears the brunt of the abuse Looney Tunes would fail without him and Bugs convinces the powers that be they need the nutty mallard. If the plot had only followed this thread--perhaps showing Daffy on the skids--then maybe the film wouldn't have spiraled into Looneyville. Unfortunately Daffy ends up hooking up with the hunky D.J. Drake (Brendan Fraser) a studio security guard who finds out that his famous movie star father Damian Drake (Timothy Dalton) is really a secret agent hunting for a mysterious diamond known as the Blue Monkey a supernatural gem that can turn the planet's population into monkeys. The evil head of the Acme Corporation Mr. Chairman (Steve Martin) wants the diamond for his own diabolical plans and he's kidnapped D.J.'s dad in an effort to get it. Now the gang has to get the diamond save D.J.'s dad and of course save the world.
It might be a little hard to act subtly around cartoon characters but these aren't your ordinary cutesy Mickey Mouse types. Bugs Daffy Porky Yosemite Sam and Foghorn Leghorn are pros at comic timing able to spar with the best of them throw out zingers without a second thought and slay you with a droll glance at the camera. It isn't really necessary for the human actors to match their madcap-ness; just reacting would have sufficed. Fraser comes off the best of the human bunch; since he's had practice (Monkeybone) he easily interacts with his animated co-stars and deftly handles the doubletakes and jabs at pop culture. Elfman on the other hand sputters and goes bug-eyed every time she encounters silliness. She looks uncomfortable doing the green screen thing especially when she's trying to look natural when peeling a distraught duck from around her waist. Martin's highly anticipated turn as Mr. Chairman turns out to be the biggest disappointment. The over-the-top character is reminiscent of Martin's hysterically funny Rupert the Monkeyboy in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but Martin turns Mr. Chairman--an angry schoolboy with knee socks and matted-down hair who never grew up--into a caricature of ridiculous proportions and unlike Rupert who came in small hilarious doses Mr. Chairman gets very tiresome very quickly.
Back in Action's animation is well done more engaging and ambitious than its 1996 predecessor Space Jam in which the action mostly took place in Looney Tunes land; here animated characters go the Who Framed Roger Rabbit? route and Bugs Daffy and the rest coexist harmoniously with humans in the real world. But despite its aspirations Back in Action leaves out vital elements that made Space Jam appealing. While the earlier film stuck to a simple plot Back in Action guided by director Joe Dante (Small Soldiers The 'Burbs) tries too hard to keep things wild and wacky while incorporating elements of '60s heist pics and action-adventure scenes and in the process loses sight of the most important ingredient in any kids movie: the story. Tykes may have limited attention spans but if the story's good they will watch. Granted some individual bits are laugh-out-loud funny particularly the scene in the Warner Bros. commissary where a stuttering Porky Pig complains about being politically incorrect with Speedy Gonzales while an animated Shaggy and Scooby-Doo berate actor Matthew Lillard for playing Shaggy as such a bonehead in the live-action Scooby-Doo. These scenes prove that if any cartoon characters could pass themselves off as real celebrities in the entertainment industry the gang from Looney Tunes could but moments like these simply can't overcome a contrived plot and juvenile antics.
Comedy is king.
In what is obviously a strong indication that moviegoers want to laugh more than anything, the new heavenly comedy Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, ruled at the box office over the four-day Memorial Day weekend with a smashing $86.4 million*, stealing the crown from reigning champion The Matrix Reloaded. The sci-fi sequel came in second with a meager $45.6 million, down 60 percent from its strong opening last weekend.
Bruce Almighty's three-day total of $70.8 million makes it the best non-sequel comedy opening of all time, as well as the best Jim Carrey opener ever, toppling his personal best Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which opened in November 2000 at $55 million.
Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco told Reuters she had expected the film to open in the $50 million to $60 million range. "I think it's a very moral film," she said.
While Carrey was obviously the key attraction, co-star Jennifer Aniston's presence and the romantic elements possibly accounted for the larger-than-usual female turnout. Women accounted for 53 percent of the audience, according to exit polling data, Reuters reports. Carrey's movies usually do best with young males.
But the record-breaking doesn't stop there. Bruce Almighty also becomes the second best Memorial Day opener ever, although the record still belongs to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which opened in 1997 and took in $90.1 million over four days. And to add a little icing on the cake, it looks like this may turn out to be the best Memorial Day weekend in box office history with an estimated grand total of $155.8 million, beating out last year's record holder of $152.4 million.
Despite this weekend's big holiday grosses, this year has largely seen sub-par box office numbers, although comedies are showing a lot of muscle. In addition to Bruce Almighty, Bringing Down the House opened in early March and stayed on top for several weeks for a cume of $129 million, while Anger Management opened April 15 with $42 million and is still on the top 10 list with a cume of $131 million. In fact, of this weekend's 10 best, six are comedies.
This could be good news for the upcoming comedies including Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (June 13) and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (July 2).
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty debuted on top with an ESTIMATED four-day take of $86.4 million at 3,483 theaters. The film's $24,806 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this weekend.
The film follows a down-on-his-luck TV news reporter who blames God for all his problems--so God challenges him to take on the job and see if he can do it any better.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in second with an ESTIMATED $45.6 million at 3,603 theaters ($12,666 per theater). Its cume is approximately $209.5 million.
In the trilogy's second installment, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue their battle against the Machines both in and out of the Matrix as mankind has just 72 hours before the destruction of the human city of Zion.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 3 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $18 million (-26%) at 3,472 theaters (+64 theaters, $5, 184 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.1 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
20th Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down a spot to fourth place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $13 million (-40%) at 3,067 theaters (-423 theaters, $4,258 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $192 million, heading towards the $200 million mark.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Another comedy made its debut at No. 5 this weekend. Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws took in an ESTIMATED $9.1 million in 2,652 theaters with a $3,443 per theater average.
In this remake, two prospective fathers-in-law meet for the first time on the eve of their children's nuptials, and the wedding cake literally hits the fan.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
In sixth place was 20th Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love, which took in an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-41%) in 2,118 theaters (-5 theater; $2,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.6 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Buena Vista's PG rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie fell a notch to No. 7 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-33%) at 2,118 theaters (-540 theaters, $1,889 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.3 million.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Buena Vista's PG rated 'tween comedy Holes held onto eighth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $3 million (-27%) at 1,762 theaters (-470 theaters, $1,703 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
Sony Pictures' R-rated psychological thriller Identity dropped three places to ninth in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-46%) at 1,590 theaters (-606, $1,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49.1 million.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy Anger Management also fell three rungs to come in 10th place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-51%) at 1,809 theaters (-667 theaters, $1,327 per theater). Its cume is approximately $131.8 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $155.8 million, just barely up a percent from last week when they totaled $154.6 million.
The Top 12 were up two percent from last year when they totaled $152.4 million.
Last year, Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones stayed at the top of the box office Memorial Day weekend in its second week in release with $60 million at 3,161 theaters ($18,983 per theater); Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man also stayed put at No. 2 in its fourth week with with $35.8 million at 3,876 theaters ($9,240 per theater); and Warner Bros' Insomnia debuted in the third spot with $26 million at 2,610 theaters ($9,988 per theater).
Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) has it made. His screenwriting career is on the rise his first movie's just been made and he's got a cute girl. Life is good--until the House Un-American Activities Committee mistakenly fingers him as a Communist and he quickly falls from the A-list to the blacklist. Getting dumped by both his studio and his girl is nothing a little drinking can't remedy but after drowning his sorrows he nearly drowns himself when he decides to drive drunk and his car veers into the river knocking him unconscious. When Peter comes to he can't remember who he is or where he came from so he's taken in by the kindly people of Lawson a burg stuck in time and still mourning the loss of many of its sons in World War II. They mistake him for Luke Trimble one of their long-lost boys who went MIA in World War II and are overjoyed at his return. Luke's father Harry (Martin Landau) whose zest for life had dwindled so much that he let his beloved movie house The Majestic fall to ruin but with "Luke's" return he plans to reopen it. Celebrations abound. Peter-as-Luke even returns to his relationship with fiancée Adele (Laurie Holden). Meanwhile Peter may have forgotten who he was but the Feds haven't and they're on his tail.
When Carrey's given the right material like he was with The Truman Show he can exhibit moments of greatness. The Majestic doesn't give Carrey the leeway to show his quirky sensibilities demanding that he play it straight throughout the movie (there are a few--too few--glances at humor that Carrey doesn't play up). To bring off the kind of schmaltz this movie oozes Carrey had to bring something of an edge to his character. Instead Peter is neither likable nor unlikable coming off as a bland confused schmo until the climactic end which after two hours of his weak personality is wholly unbelievable. Landau is unexciting as a caricature of the sad sentimental old man without hope--you want to sympathize but there's something faintly chilly about him. Holden's liberated-woman lawyer might have played better in a contemporary movie; she looks and acts too much like a modern-day actress trying to portray a woman of the '50s.
Was this some kind of vanity project dreamed up by a director too taken with his own greatness and past success? Was Frank Darabont envisioning an It's a Wonderful Life for the next generation? (Psst…it's likely the majority of the modern moviegoing public doesn't know who Frank Capra is and could care less especially when the movie is as slow and as completely unbelievable as this one.) Apparently Darabont's in love with his own direction because hardly a moment goes by without some lingering reaction shot. Darabont took an intriguing story about amnesia and mistaken identity and slathered it with sap. Old-fashioned period stories can be lots of fun but it's imperative they be able to keep a present-day audience's interest by including a bit of modern wit and pace. Unfortunately this sticks to the straight-and-narrow. Nobody's going to buy the two-dimensional main characters the shiny happy townspeople or especially the schlocky my-country-'tis-of-thee finale. In its favor The Majestic's ultimate message is a nice one. The movie does have its heartfelt moments and its '50s feel is authentic if a little polished.
Supermom Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her geneticist husband Norman (Harrison Ford) are adapting to their only daughter's departure to college when Claire begins sensing an unearthly presence in the couple's lakeside Vermont dream home. Is she losing her marbles or is that the spirit of a beautiful young woman she keeps glimpsing? To say any more (as the too-explicit ad campaign does) would spoil some delicious twists.
The toplining Ford is his usual solid self in a role that plays cleverly on his familiar persona but the picture is Pfeiffer's from beginning to end. She delivers one of her most pleasing performances nicely disarming audience doubts about the story's supernatural elements with some judicious eye-rolling and embarrassed frowning -- her character is so painfully aware that what she's saying sounds crazy how can we possibly doubt her? Among the low-key supporting cast Joe Morton ("Terminator 2") stands out as an amiably down-to-earth psychiatrist.
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") takes Clark Gregg's highly derivative haunted house script and pours on the Hitchcockian visual flourishes unapologetically pilfering from the Master's "Rear Window" and "Psycho " among others. His extended homage results in scene after scene of almost unbearable tension as the audience waits for the next shock. There's some clunky storytelling in the first section but the all-suspense second half more than makes up for it with some classic work including what seems destined to go down in movie history as "the bathtub scene."