Ducks Amuck


In the classic Looney episode “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century,” Daffy Duck journeys to “Planet X”; in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, he meets Edgar Ulmer’s Man From Planet X. The homage is oblique to the point of being deranged. It’s the kind of reference that could spring only from the mind of Joe Dante, whose artfully eerie commercial films always offer reams of peripheral dividends for cinephiles. (Roger Corman, Robby the Robot, and Kevin McCarthy—pod in tow—all make cameos.) The director, sunnier than usual here, has never made a secret of his love for Warner’s famous ‘toons (Chuck Jones appeared in Gremlins and Innerspace, animated the bookends of Gremlins 2, and had a high school named after him in Explorers). In LT: BIA, Dante’s masterstroke is to make the movie as visually and narratively unhinged as its source material. The heady non sequiturs—like Elmer Fudd surfacing for an impromptu chase though paintings by Seurat, Munch, and Dalí—are frequently hilarious. As in Dante’s segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie, the live-action world operates with cartoon logic—Brendan Fraser goes splat almost as often as Wile E. Coyote, and even tussles with his double, à la “Duck Amuck.”