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December 02, 2005

Two by Joe Dante

Joe Dante - 2005
Showtime Channel

Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Joe Dante - 2003
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

This much I am certain about Homecoming - George W. Bush will probably never see it because 1. Showtime's broadcast his past his reported 10:00 pm bedtime, and 2. From the response to Hurricane Katrina, we have learned that the President's advisers don't seem to watch television either. Not that it will make a difference in that Homecoming will probably be dismissed as a liberal's fantasy.

Joe Dante clearly has an agenda. Even when the President of the United States is not named, no one should be confused when the gun toting blonde's license plate reads "Bsh Babe". Given some of the writings and declarations of Ann Coulter and Jerry Falwell, nothing that their counterparts say or do in Homecoming seems like an exaggeration. While satire isn't new for Dante, this is his warmest film that I've seen. Between the mayhem is a lovely scene, something of a digression from the story, in which a middle aged couple provide shelter and familial warmth to one of the zombie soldiers. Throughout the film, the zombies maintain greater dignity than some of the humans.

Unlike some of Dante's other films, his references to other films and filmmakers is limited to not distract from his message. One scene, with Jon Tenney at the grave of his brother, is a parody of the opening scene from Night of the Living Dead. Where Dante has his fun is in making sure the attentive film lovers note gravestones for Gordon Douglas, John Gilling, Jean Yarbrough, Jacques Tourneur, and G. A. Romero. It should be noted that Showtime is being offered free this weekend giving more people an opportunity to see this film, and it is scheduled on Scream Television in Canada.

Less obviously political is Dante's previous film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action. The story concerning the rivalry between Bugs and Daffy, and Brendan Fraser in search of a legendary diamond are merely the framework for a film crammed full of cultural references. This is a film by and for those of us who spent Saturday mornings watching as many Warner Brother cartoons as possible. It's not only a matter of having Porky Pig and Speedy Gonzales discuss the problems of being politically correct, but also taking the time to mimic animator Robert Clampett's Daliesque Porky in Wackyland. The jokes, many in the background such as in a Richard Lester film, are continuous. This is a universe where humans and cartoon characters co-exist, as well as characters and creatures from 50s science fiction movies. While the film was marketed for children, Dante has called it "the anti-Space Jam". With scenes of Bugs Bunny singing along Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas, and taking a shower, this Looney Tunes is truly for boomer parents and film lovers.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 2, 2005 11:08 PM


Peter: Terrific site, and nice comments about Joe Dante, one of my favorite filmmakers. I loved Looney Tunes: Back In Action and was downright dismayed at the amount of people whom I expected would love it who instead got unreasonably cranky over it. Confused? That's me. As for Homecoming, not that I would have had much of a chance to see it this weekend, but had I known Showtime was free this weekend I would have at least tried! Oh, well, a friend of mine has promised he'll tape it for me. Again, nice work. I hope you'll visit my site sometime and hoepfully find it as readable as I find yours.

Posted by: Dennis Cozzalio at December 5, 2005 12:27 AM

Almost makes me wish I had Showtime. Alas, will have to wait for the DVD. . .

Sounds great though!

Posted by: Filmbrain at December 5, 2005 11:40 AM

"Homecoming" has a lot of people having another, or a first, look at Looney Tunes: Back in Action. I kind of figured it might be due to a blind support of Dante's politics, but your assessment of Back in Action makes me think I should give it a shot.

Posted by: nilblogette at December 7, 2005 06:03 PM