"This show is goin' downhill fast!"—Daffy Duck
First, three important caveats for any potential buyers of this disc:
1. This Looney Tunes disc does not contain any classic shorts; it contains only "new" cartoons.
2. The toons in question are actually webtoons, Flash animations originally produced for the Warner Brothers Animation website.
3. Any alarm bells tripped by the above two caveats are completely justified.
Leave it to Warner Brothers to give to animation fans with one hand while smiting them with the other. At the same time that Warner releases the Golden Collection and Premiere Collection of classic Looney Tunes shorts, it shoves out Reality Check, and its companion disc, Stranger Than Fiction, like some kind of foul afterbirth.
As mentioned above, Reality Check is a collection of Flash cartoons that Warner Bros. has cobbled together and stuck on a disc, presumably to get some Looney Tunes product out the door in advance of the soon-to-be-released Looney Tunes Back in Action movie. I can only hope that the same team that churned out this inane, laugh-free collection was in no way involved with Back in Action.
The 21 webtoons that comprise Reality Check are parodies of reality-based TV shows like Survivor, Fear Factor, and The People's Court. They include:
• Sports Blab #1
Sadly, the titles are the only funny thing in this collection. The concept of spoofing inherently spoofable shows like Iron Chef or Survivor might seem like a can't-miss proposition, but Reality Check manages to miss the target every time. If your idea of a hilarious parody is to simply ape the thing being parodied—"Look! Grannie's the People's Court judge! Isn't that funny?"—without a shred of genuine satirical inspiration, then this is the DVD you've been waiting for (at least until Scary Movie 3 hits the shelves). But if it takes more than cartoon characters getting blown up every fifteen seconds to make you laugh, or if you remember the classic Looney Tunes with any affection at all, I urge you to stay far, far away from this witless bore.
Lest ye think I'm being overly harsh, let's take a randomly selected toon as an example. "Aluminum Chef #1," one of the two Iron Chef parodies, has Elmer Fudd in a cooking competition with Yosemite Sam, with Daffy Duck as the "Chairman Kaga" type host. The secret ingredient (believe me, I'm not spoiling anything when I say this) turns out to be Bugs Bunny. So far, so good. The fun begins when Bugs switches Sam's rabbit cookbook with a "How to Massage a Rabbit" book. Next thing you know, Bugs is reclining with cucumber slices over his eyes, telling Sam not to "forget the seaweed wrap." Then Elmer grabs Bugs and shoves him into a pot of water. "You're the kook—uh, I mean cook, Doc," Bugs says. "What's that scwewy rabbit up to?" Elmer wonders. Not much, as it turns out. In a nod to Deep Blue Sea, one of the many random homages in this collection, a shark leaps out of the pot for no particular reason and devours Elmer, prompting Bugs to observe, "That shark's gonna have Fudd breath!" The whole thing ends with Elmer encased in a block of "Fuddge" (get it?) and Sam wrapped up into "Yosemite Sushi." Oh, and did I mention that Daffy's "Kaga" wig keeps slipping off his head? Isn't that hilarious?
Somewhere, Chuck Jones is spinning in his grave. And frankly, I'd rather watch that for 57 minutes than spend another second with this cartoon calamity.
The main problem with Reality Check is not that it's absurd or repetitive—the original Looney Tunes shorts managed to recycle the standard "Elmer Hunts Bugs" plot dozens of times, and featured gags that sometimes outdid Monty Python for surreal weirdness. But those classic cartoons, silly as they often were, had coherent storylines and were edited with an exquisite comic timing. Each one was a mini-movie (even reaching epic proportions, as with "What's Opera, Doc?") that stood on its own and didn't necessarily require familiarity with the characters to be funny.
These webtoons, on the other hand, are little more than one lame joke after another, crammed together in a haphazard, disconnected fashion with no regard for story. The only glimmer of real humor comes from the ubiquitous in-jokes and references to past Looney Tunes classics, which only underscore how superior they were to these pathetic latter-day efforts. The whole thing comes across as desperate and pointlessly frantic instead of hip and energetic. This sort of self-aware, pop-culture-laden humor has been done well by Warner Animation in the past, with Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, but the talent that drove those shows is nowhere in evidence here.
Sounds pretty awful so far, huh? Well, Doc, I haven't even gotten to the animation yet.
Now, I'm a fan of Flash animation…on the Web. Webtoons like Homestar Runner and John Kricfalusi's online Spumco shorts are hilarious, and you don't mind the choppy animation because they're funny, and…well, it's the Web. But to take cut-rate Flash cartoons, package them on DVDs, and present them to consumers as quality animation is not only crass, it's dishonest. These jerky, clip-art constructions look like something you might put together at home using an animation program. It would be one thing to stick this onto an A-list collection as a freebie, but to charge money for product this substandard is criminal.
On the (marginally) brighter side, the video presentation of these webtoons (in their original full frame aspect ratio) is exceptional. As one might expect from a digital-to-digital transfer, the print is spotless and free of defects. The colors, too, are vibrant and intense. The only fly in the ointment is excessive edge enhancement, resulting in noticeable (but not bothersome) shimmering. Otherwise, this disc looks great. It may be a turd, but it's a shiny, finely gilded turd.
Reality Check offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and the audio is bright and clear, but mostly confined to the front speakers, without much stereo separation and almost no rear speaker activity. English and French subtitles are included.
Surprisingly, there are a number of extras on this disc, but unfortunately they only extend the tedium rather than enhancing the main feature. I was hoping "Toon Marooned Interviews" would consist of actual interviews with the creators of the shorts, in which they would explain and account for the utter vapidity of this project, but no such luck. Instead, they're cartoon "interviews" with Porky Pig and the Tasmanian Devil, and contain about as many laughs as the feature (i.e., none).
The sight of "Toon Marooned Outtakes" on the special feature menu struck fear in my heart—material that was deemed subpar by the standards of this misbegotten dud?—but, tellingly, they're no more or less funny than anything else on this disc. There are also some superfluous "All-New Toon Spots" that are merely clips drawn from the main feature, a marginally interesting "sneak peek" at the Looney Tunes Back in Action video game, and a collection of trailers for other Warner animation offerings, such as Mucha Lucha, Tom and Jerry Favorites, and Scooby Doo and the Monster of Mexico. With the possible exception of Scooby Doo, this is easily the most entertaining offering on the disc.
If you pop the DVD into your computer's DVD-ROM drive, you'll also be able to access a Flash game, "Bugs Bunny's Tower Trouble," which is reasonably diverting in a mindless, '80s era Nintendo sort of way.
I can't think of anyone I would recommend Reality Check to. The only audience that might conceivably find any entertainment value in this terminally unfunny fiasco is young children, and even they'll likely be bored. It goes without saying that any true-blue Looney Tunes fan will be outraged at having laid out hard-earned money for this waste of 57-plus minutes. With the release of the multi-disc Golden and Premiere collections, there is absolutely no reason for anyone hungry for Looney Tunes to buy or even rent this disc.
The creators of Reality Check are hereby pronounced guilty of comedic murder in the first degree, and henceforth may not come within 100 yards of any PC running Macromedia Flash.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Toon Marooned Interviews
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