Chris Willman
March 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

At nine minutes apiece, give or take a heat-seeking anvil or Acme equipment failure, the original Looney Tunes represented the apotheosis of content matching perfectly timed form. The hour-and-a-half-long Looney Tunes: Back in Action so overstays its welcome, you may start identifying with a certain Sisyphean coyote, battered and blown up in the pursuit of a few good ducks ‘n’ yuks. A more faithful translation of the original Looney spirit than the soulless ”Space Jam,” ”Back in Action” nonetheless proves enervating for anyone with an attention span more developed — or energy level less boundless — than an 8-year-old’s. (Judging from the slim grosses, the number of prepubescent wisenheimers idolizing Bugs Bunny is, sadly, dwindling.)

All this helps explain why ”Action” improves as a DVD experience. Break it up by ‘toon-size chapter stops and you’ll have the patience to explore the gems popping up on the way to the overheated action climaxes. The inanimate plot — in which a security guard (Brendan Fraser) and a studio VP (Jenna Elfman) chase Daffy into a world-domination scheme overseen by the Acme Corp. COO (Steve Martin, mincing and leering at Mary Woronov) — serves as a conduit for mirth-inducing cameos by varmints like Yosemite Sam (now a Vegas casino boss), Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, and the Tasmanian Devil (who gets to eat Ron Perlman alive).

But less isn’t always more: The 15 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage, while sufficient for kids, is skimpy for animation buffs. And you can’t view the extra 26 minutes of deleted scenes, in DVD-ROM format, if you’re offline or a Mac or Linux user. Director Joe Dante fashioned the movie as a paean to Daffy Duck’s anarchic spirit; do they really expect us to believe Daffy does Windows?

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