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.
Watching fast cars being driven by furious folk was all the rage this weekend at the box office.
The high-octane opener 2 Fast 2 Furious, the only new wide release of the week, crossed the finish line in first place, roaring past the competition with a $52.1 million* haul. In its dust, 2 Fast left last week's big winner Finding Nemo holding the second place trophy at $45.8 million.
2 Fast also managed to beat out its predecessor The Fast and the Furious, which debuted in June 2001 at $40 million.
The heavenly comedy Bruce Almighty followed in third place this week with $21.7 million while the Mini Cooper-powered The Italian Job took fourth with $13.3 million. The continuing sci-fi opus The Matrix Reloaded rounded out the top five with $9.1 million.
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures PG-13-rated action-packed sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious debuted in the top spot with an ESTIMATED $52.1 million at 3,408 theaters. Its $15,288 average per theater was the highest of any film playing this week.
The sequel follows Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) who, after losing his badge from his escapades in The Fast and the Furious, is given one last chance when the Feds in Miami need his help to collar a dirty businessman using his import/export business as a cover for an international money-laundering cartel.
Directed by John Singleton, it also stars Tyrese, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser and Devon Aoki.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer-animated feature Finding Nemo swam out of first place to take No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $45.8 million (-35%) at 3,391 theaters (+17 theaters; $13,506 per theater). Don't be too sad for the fish, though; the film, about a clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef who is looking for his son, has accumulated approximately $143.3 million in only two weeks.
Directed and co-written by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, it features the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe and Brad Garrett.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty dropped a notch to third in its third week with an ESTIMATED $21.7 million (-42%) at 3,549 theaters (+57 theaters; $6,114 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $170.8 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Jim Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated actioner The Italian Job dropped a notch to fourth with an ESTIMATED $13.3 million (-32%) at 2,877 theaters (+244 theaters; $4,623 per theater). The film, about a mastermind thief and his crew trying to pull off an amazing gold bullion heist, has taken in approximately $40.1 million in two weeks.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Seth Green, Mos Def and Edward Norton.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded weighed in at No. 5, sliding down a spot in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $9.1 million (-42%) at 3,225 theaters (-228 theaters; $2,823 per theater). Its cume is approximately $247.6 million.
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. 6 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-29%) at 2,713 theaters (-415 theaters; $1,769 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.6 million and headed for the $100 million mark.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
Twentieth Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United stayed in seventh place in its sixth week of release with an ESTIMATED $3 million (-40%) at 2,050 theaters (-480 theaters; $1,488 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $204.3 million.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Twentieth Century Fox's R rated horror thriller Wrong Turn slid down two spots to take eighth place with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-49%) in 1,613 theaters (-2 theaters; $1,643 per theater). The film, which revolves around a group that gets stranded on a dirt road deep in the woods of West Virginia and faces a horrific fate at the hands of gruesome mountain men, has taken in approximately $9.7 million in two weeks.
Directed by Rob Schmidt, it stars Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto.
Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws dropped one notch to No. 9 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $2 million (-46%) in 2,047 theaters (-605; $979 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $17.9 million.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Fox Searchlight's PC-13 rated comedy Bend It Like Beckham kept its place on the list at No. 10 in its 13th week with an ESTIMATED $975,000 (-9%) at 494 theaters (+3 theaters; $1,974 per theater). Its cume is approximately $20.5 million.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $157 million, down 6.6 percent from last week's take of $168.2 million.
The Top 12, however, were up a whopping 52 percent from last year's $103.3 million total.
Last year, Paramount's PG-13 rated The Sum of All Fears stayed the top of the box office for the second week in a row with $19.2 million at 3,218 theaters ($5,976 per theater), while Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood debuted at No. 2 with $16.1 million in 2,507 theaters ($6,449 per theater); Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones dropped to third place in its third week with $14 million at 3,161 theaters ($4,433 per theater).
Actors Woody Harrelson and Kyle MacLachlan are the latest film stars to try their luck on stage in London's West End. The two will appear in American playwright John Kolvenbach's On an Average Day, which opens Aug. 7 at the Comedy Theater. Harrelson and MacLachlan join an exodus of stars who have made London stage debuts in the past month, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Matt Damon, Hayden Christensen and Anna Paquin. X-Files star Gillian Anderson is also expected to appear in a new play by American writer Michael Weller, and Glenn Close makes her National Theater debut in A Streetcar Named Desire in late October, Variety reports.
While some stars choose to leave the country, it seems others are being forced. British actor Steven Berkoff, who was scheduled to perform in his one-man play, Shakespeare's Villains, in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, Mich., this week, was deported before he could take the stage, The Associated Press reports. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service deported the actor on allegations that he had violated the stipulations of a previous work visa issued in 1997.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney took time out of his honeymoon with Heather Mills to write to the top 100 shareholders of McDonald's, asking them to persuade the company to apply its U.S. animal welfare standards to its restaurants worldwide, the AP reports. The letter was released Thursday by the animal- ights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Juwanna Mann star Vivica A. Fox has filed for divorce from her husband of almost four years, Christopher Harvest. The 37-year-old actress, who starred in Independence Day and Batman & Robin, filed her petition at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on Thursday.
Warner Bros. is remaking the 1979 comedy The In-Laws to be directed by Andy Fleming, Variety reports. Till Death Do Us Part will star Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks and Van Wilder's Ryan Reynolds. Lindsay Sloane is in final negotiations to star. Shooting begins in Toronto in mid-July.
Traffic scribe Stephen Gaghan has signed on to rewrite Ron Howard's upcoming period film The Alamo, which was originally written by John Sayles. The Disney picture is expected to deal with the Alamo's historical complexities--including the Mexican point of view--that weren't seen in the1960 John Wayne version of the film. Russell Crowe is in final negotiations to star.
Apparently there is a whole world out there for tabloid TV host Jerry Springer to conquer. According to the AP, Springer will host a weekly late-night show in South Africa later this year. Jerry Springer Saturday Night promises to be more traditional than his popular American show and will feature interviews with celebrities, an opening monologue and a live studio audience.
Timothy White, the influential editor of Billboard magazine, died of an apparent heart attack on Thursday at the age of 50, Reuters reports. White collapsed at Billboard's New York headquarters and was rushed to St. Vincent's hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The magazine had its most profitable and critically acclaimed run under White, who also wrote a weekly column considered a must-read by many in the music industry. His final column will appear in Billboard's July 6 issue, which hits newsstands Friday.
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."