Warner Bros. // 1981 // 80 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // May 4th, 2009
Eh, what's up, Doc?
The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie is legendary animation director Friz Freleng's tribute to legendary animation director Friz Freleng. It would be an act of megalomaniacal excess except that, well, Friz Freleng was awesome. I can't really blame him for recognizing his own awesomeness, can I? Freleng was the head honcho at Warner Brothers' legendary Termite Terrace studio that produced the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies animated shorts. The cartoons he personally directed are brilliant; they're characterized by a sly and sometimes subversive wit, beautifully animated (and often violent) slapstick, and storylines propelled by a comical mix of frustration and rage (the creator of Yosemite Sam, he based the belligerent little gunslinger on himself). Freleng was easily one of the greatest animators north, south, east, or west of the Pecos. Countless hours of my childhood were wasted watching his handiwork.
Produced as a theatrical feature in 1981, The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie is made of a hodge-podge of excerpts from classic Freleng-directed Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies animated shorts with newly created interstitial animation designed to link the various pieces into a semi-coherent narrative whole. After opening with a prelude of Knighty Knight Bugs, the 1958 cartoon for which Freleng won an Academy Award, the movie is organized into three acts:
* Satan's Waitin'
The sulfurous dark lord of the underworld has Yosemite Sam in his clutches when the abrasive and diminutive scoundrel kicks off (at Bugs Bunny's hand) after a life spent bilking old widows. The devil agrees to allow Sam to make things right with a second chance at life if he can get someone else (read: Bugs Bunny) to take his place in Hell. Sam skips across time as a Roman centurion battling Bugs and hungry lions, an Arabian prince laying siege to Bugs' desert fortress, and a mercurial cowboy who duels with a quick-drawing Bugs. In the end, Sam decides it's easier to stay in Hell than to lock horns with Bugs Bunny.
* The Unmentionables
Bugs Bunny is recruited into law enforcement and given the name Elegant Mess. He faces off against pint-sized gangster Rocky and his oafish goon Mugsy. Rocky's schemes include kidnapping Daffy Duck from Porky Pig and trying to make him lay a golden egg, and stealing Tweetie Bird in the hopes of collecting a hefty ransom.
* The Oswalds
Bugs Bunny hosts the Oswalds, an awards ceremony created by Friz for animated actors. When Daffy Duck loses to Bugs, a talent showdown with an explosive ending ensues.
It's telling that the best stretch of The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie is the presentation of Knighty Knight Bugs as a prelude to the main action. It's always been one of my favorite Looney Tunes. From Sir Osis of Liver, to malfunctioning drawbridges, to stupid dragons, to perfectly animated physical comedy, it packs a lot of laughs into six minutes. The rest of the picture isn't bad, but it teases one's appetite for viewing the shorts in their entirety more than it satisfies as an actual movie. The classic cartoons that appear in the flick include High-Diving Hare (1948), Catty Cornered (1953), Sahara Hare (1955), Roman Legion-Hare (1955), Birds Anonymous (1957), and The Unmentionables (1963). It's all top-shelf Looney Tunes goodness. By contrast, most of the new material that makes up the narrative frame for the excerpts is lame. The animation is decent, though noticeably inferior to the shorts. Some of the jokes are gratingly modern (for example, after laying a golden egg, Daffy Duck declares that he needs a proctologist). Luckily, the vast majority of the movie's running time consists of excerpted shorts; that material definitely entertains. The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie may be a sorry excuse for a movie, and a rickety Friz Freleng vanity project, but that doesn't change the fact that it's constructed of small pieces of fabulous entertainment.
The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie looks decent on DVD considering much of its material was produced in the '50s and '60s. The shorts look nearly as good as the restored versions presented in Warner Brothers' Golden and Spotlight Collection box sets. Colors are reasonably solid and consistent. The prints are cleaner than the television broadcast versions I watched as a kid, but still flecked with minor instances of damage. The material produced in 1981 sports brighter colors and no source damage, but the animation itself is slightly inferior. Audio is presented in a wafer thin single-channel mono mix. On the plus side, legendary voice actor Mel Blanc provided all of the voices in the film, creating a nearly seamless audio experience as the story transitions between the vintage footage and that created in 1981.
In addition to the feature, the disc contains three latter-day Looney Tunes shorts: Box Office Bunny (1990), the Chuck Jones-directed From Hare to Eternity (1996), and Pullet Surprise (1997). None of them comes close to matching the quality of the classic shorts, especially since they were all made after Mel Blanc's death (for my money, a Bugs Bunny voiced by anyone else just isn't the Bugs Bunny).
An artifact from the era before home video, The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie surely made sense as a theatrical feature when it was originally released. Now, at a time when we're all up to our eyeballs in home entertainment, it's little more than a doo-dad for the hardcore Looney Tunes fanatic. Everyone else is better off investing in the Golden or Spotlight Collection releases that contain the full, uncut classic shorts.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Bonus Cartoons