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Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Mark McKenzie

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
November 18th, 2003

Also See:
The 'Burbs
Small Soldiers
Gremlins 2

Audio Clips:
4. Dead Duck Walking (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

5. Out of the Bag (0:32):
WMA (206K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

8. The Bad Guys (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

13. We've Got Company (0:28):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (226K)
Real Audio (140K)

Regular U.S. release.


Looney Tunes: Back in Action
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Buy it... if you can appreciate and enjoy Jerry Goldsmith's masterful talent for parody on a grand orchestral scale, thoroughly referencing classic cartoon motifs and his own, previously heard thematic ideas.

Avoid it... if you can appreciate those Goldsmith's talents, but not necessarily in the context of the rapidly changing genres in single-minute cues over the course of forty frantic, energized minutes of flair.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action: (Jerry Goldsmith) Back in 1988, the idea of having animated characters share the screen with live actors and sets for an entire film was introduced with much fanfare and mainstream buzz in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Due to studio quarrels and ongoing technical difficulties, however, the marketability of that concept of live and animated action interacting in major films faded from the popular spotlight. With the technical aspects of the prospect easy to render in the 2000's, Warner Brothers resurrected the idea and pushed it to the forefront in full force with 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Directed by Joe Dante, the film follows the plot outline of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'s backlot studio infighting between our favorite animated characters, but it also takes an adventure around the world with their live action counterparts (Brandan Frasier and Jenna Elfman) in search for the mythical "Blue Monkey Diamond," which hopefully had nothing to do with the real-life blue diamond pills that men all over the world are taking these days to satisfy their women. Dante is well rehearsed in making films such as this one, with a long list of comedies going back to the middle of the 1980's and alternating between positively funny and grossly dumb projects. One staple of these projects was the music of composer Jerry Goldsmith, who scored such Dante entries as the Gremlins films, The 'Burbs, Matinee, and Small Soldiers. His contribution for Looney Tunes would truly test his ability to generate slapstick, shtick action at an extremely energizing pace of movement. Despite increasing problems with sickness due to his advancing age and an ever-continuing demand for his services, Goldsmith managed to produce just that: an exercise in gag reflexes and genre references that moves at the speed of light through stereotypical statements of theme and instrumentation. The score serves as a surprisingly thorough culmination of all the cartoon elements that he had employed over the second half of his career.

Unfortunately, time did eventually catch up with the composer. Goldsmith didn't have time to finish the score for Looney Tunes due to countless late edits to the end of the picture, and John Debney (likewise versatile in this particular genre and a master of imitating the style of other composers) was hired to use Goldsmith's ideas to formulate an additional 16 minutes of material. This score could only be suitable for a cartoon, and classic slapstick composers for orchestra in this genre, including Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott, would be proud of this piece of work. At the very least, it showed that Goldsmith's mental talents were still firing on all cylinders to the very end. The amount of orchestral energy unleashed through the rhythms, instrumentation, and tempo of Looney Tunes is staggering. It's a score that needs to be appreciated even if it can't be enjoyed because of its rapid pace of directional changes. Being for a cartoon, the score inherently has a construction of short cues, often with unrelated genres in each sudden succession, and the tone is therefore difficult to tolerate unless you know exactly what you're getting into. The references to other scores and genres alone, however, will keep a film music collector interested for a few listens. The title theme for Looney Tunes is suspiciously similar to one of the plethora of pleasant themes for The 'Burbs, and it is stated enough times to establish itself well in the score. A loungey electric guitar-led motif also exists throughout the work, representing the studio settings. At times, the guitar explodes into rhythms that mirror those heard in Edward Shearmur's parody style for Johnny English earlier in 2003. Goldsmith utilizes a variation on a famous Western theme to represent "The Bad Guys" in the score. When the setting turns to "Area 52," Goldsmith reprises that eerie, distant vocal from The 'Burbs and brackets it in between violin slashes from Bernard Herrmann's Psycho. And whenever being "In Style" is mentioned, a lofty, classical solo violin of pretentious attitude is offered. For scenes of ritualistic action, such as in "Blue Monkey," Goldsmith revisits snare-led martial ideas from Small Soldiers.

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As the setting changes to Paris, Goldsmith pours on the stereotypical accordion, and when we meet the jungle setting, a variety of drums greets with primitive intentions. There are a few cues of unrestrained bombast for brass, timpani, and electronic rhythm-setters, such as "Dead Duck Walking" and "Free Fall," although most of the faster action pieces rely on Goldsmith's creative use of percussion to provide their attractive accompaniment for the quirky characters. As Carl Stalling did in the classic cartoons, every conceivable piece of percussion was pulled out for this score, from the basic ramblings on the piano to whistles, rattles, triangles, and joke-accenting noisemakers. Goldsmith even incorporated a harp into the proceedings, which was a rare event for him (his hatred of the instrument was well known). Goldsmith's sense of humor was unwavering, as usual, with a full reprise of his Gremlins theme when an appropriately named vehicle is whipped up in "Out of the Bag." The flighty tone is a characteristic of Looney Tunes that you have to be prepared for in order to enjoy the score on album. There's certainly a large contingent of film music collectors who have no affinity for Stallings' style (or even Goldsmith's comedy material for Dante films), and for these folks, this score was a disquieting way for Goldsmith to exit the stage. None of Debney's last-minute material appears on the 37-minute album, though his music does have a habit of readily spreading around the secondary market. Overall, Goldsmith's slapstick material here is well developed, but not as concise and enjoyable as own standard of classic parody, The 'Burbs (nor does it have the same electronic creativity). That's likely due, once again, to the speed at which the scenes and moods in Looney Tunes change. It's a specific sound for a specific mood, and it should best be left for the marvel of its own construction rather than expectations of a coherent listening experience. With the rejection of Goldsmith's score for the underachieving Timeline earlier in the year, this was his only entry in 2003, and when he succumbed the following summer, Looney Tunes became an arguably unceremonious conclusion to a great career. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for the Film: ****
    Music as Heard on Album: ***
    Overall: ****

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,513 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.31 Stars
Smart Average: 3.23 Stars*
***** 235 
**** 314 
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* 115 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Looney Tunes: Back in Action Formula
  Bruno Costa -- 12/8/10 (4:11 p.m.)
   Looney and great music from the late maestr...
  Jouko Yli-Kiikka -- 5/7/08 (5:58 a.m.)
   Re: Brass Section (Hollywood Studio Symphon...
  N.R.Q. -- 6/6/07 (9:13 a.m.)
   Brass Section (Hollywood Studio Symphony)
  N.R.Q. -- 5/28/07 (8:40 a.m.)
   John Debney's Orchestrations
  N.R.Q. -- 3/15/06 (8:15 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 37:18

• 1. Life Story* (0:18)
• 2. What's Up? (1:24)
• 3. Another Take (0:48)
• 4. Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
• 5. Out of the Bag (3:42)
• 6. Blue Monkey (0:54)
• 7. In Style (1:09)
• 8. The Bad Guys (2:57)
• 9. Car Trouble (3:45)
• 10. Thin Air (1:24)
• 11. Area 52 (1:27)
• 12. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
• 13. We've Got Company (1:50)
• 14. I'll Take That (1:19)
• 15. Paris Street (1:21)
• 16. Free Fall (1:15)
• 17. Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
• 18. Jungle Scene (1:40)
• 19. Pressed Duck (3:22)
• 20. Re-Assembled (0:50)
• 21. Merry Go Round Broke Down** (0:16)

* Composed by Carl Stalling
** Composed by Cliff Friend and Dave Franklin

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes list of performers and a note from director Joe Dante about his collaboration with Goldsmith.

  All artwork and sound clips from Looney Tunes: Back in Action are Copyright © 2003, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 11/21/03 and last updated 3/6/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.