Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979)

          Despite including only about 10 minutes of original content, this cartoon anthology movie is worth a casual viewing simply because the old material it presents is so enjoyable. Just as That’s Entertainment! (1974) did with snippets of MGM movies, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie celebrates the legacy of a particular studio by offering a fast-paced highlight reel. However, in this case the “studio” is actually a brand associated with one particular Warner Bros. Pictures animation unit—the legendary Looney Tunes moniker that adorned hundreds of ’toons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, and other beloved characters. Overseen by Chuck Jones, the classic Looney Tunes director who made many of Bugs’ best films, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie features Bugs (voiced, as always, by Mel Blanc) hosting a retrospective of his career.
          In the opening bits, Bugs hangs around his estate and explains the history of screen comedy—cave paintings beget movies, which beget slapstick, which beget action-packed Looney Tunes. (This brief but amusing bit comprises most of the new material.) Thereafter, Bugs either appears on camera or narrates while the film presents clips from classic Looney Tunes and/or entire shorts. Most of the material features Bugs, of course, and there’s a lot of Daffy and Porky, along with some Pepe Le Peu, too. As the title suggests, the Road Runner makes an appearance, though all of the Road Runner stuff is presented in a 15-minute montage of sight gags at the end of the picture. Like most anthology films, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie runs out of gas—the Road Runner sequence is inherently repetitive, and it’s also far too long—but the best material is fantastic.
          Featured shorts include “Duck Amuck,” ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century,” “For Scent-inmental Reasons,” and so on. Since these shorts are all rightfully regarded as classics of the form, the bulk of the picture comprises a nonstop barrage of imaginative animation, masterfully timed comedy, and peerless vocal performances by the astounding Mr. Blanc. Purists can argue (with good reason) that these classic ’toons should only be consumed in their original form, but The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie is hard to beat as a sampler platter. Additionally, there’s one notable behind-the-scenes aspect to the project. Earlier in the ’70s, Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett hosted a quasi-documentary called Bugs Bunny Superstar (1974), which reportedly annoyed Jones by implying that Clampett was Bugs’ principal creator. Jones returned the insult by excluding Clampett from a sequence in The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie during which Bugs names his various “fathers.” Ouch.

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie: GROOVY

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