Resuscitating the Warner Brothers stable of cartoon stars is an idea that smacks of expediency: With a high-profile DVD treasury of classic shorts arriving for Christmas, what better way to cross-promote it than by having a brand new theatrical feature in the marketplace as well? In its own way, this half-animated, half-live-action piece is just as much of a nostalgia nugget as the boxed set, with cameos by countless obscure characters facilitating a running game of geeked-out I Spy. ("Look! There's the Peter Lorre guy from "Birth of a Notion"!) Other fun elements of "Back in Action" include a desert-bound pastiche of '50s sci-fi personages and a romp through the Louvre that sees Bugs et al taking on the physical attributes of various acclaimed masterworks. Unfortunately, such moments of baby-boomer good will are hung on a lame "international intrigue" plot that forces our 2-D pals to pull spy duty alongside shamelessly mugging human stars like Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin (surprisingly ineffectual). Amid the lackluster storytelling and tepid punch lines, it's the peripheral details that matter most -- including one brief but hilarious shot that outs Daffy Duck as a one-time compadre of Dick Nixon. It figures.
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