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Put 'Em Back: "Loonatics Unleashed" Is Just Mediocre

Six months after it was announced—six months after massive mainstream news coverage; anguished message board and blog posts; Internet petitions; scatological animated parodies; collisions with sex-toy manufacturers and Dutch character designers—six months after a near-riot, in other words, Loonatics Unleashed finally sees the light of day and reveals itself as… just another lousy action cartoon.

Set in the distant future, Loonatics Unleashed chronicles the adventures of six superpowered creatures who protect the city of Acmetropolis from do-badders. The concept isn’t much different from other superhero shows, and no one would have paid it much attention if the six heroes weren’t “reimaginings” of the classic Looney Tunes characters. So, in place of Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner and the Tasmanian Devil we have Ace Bunny, Tech E. Coyote, Danger Duck, Rev Runner and Slam Tasmanian. (Lexi Bunny is the only “new” character, though she isn’t any better for that fact.)

The good news—such as it is—is that Loonatics Unleashed is unlikely to significantly spoil our memories of the old Looney Tunes gang. Sure, the new crew borrows (without repaying interest) certain aspects of the old characters. Ace is the cocky “leader”; Danger Duck is an egomaniac; Slam is an inarticulate ball of energy. But Loonatics is so different in outlook, design, and temper that it is no more likely to remind you of The Bugs Bunny Show than Superman: The Animated Series is likely to remind you of “Stupor Duck.” An anime-type Duck Dodgers this ain’t.

The bad news—and there’s plenty of it—is that the new series just isn’t very good on its own. From character designs too obviously intended to cash in on the faux-anime craze to limp writing that slides in at about the level of Krypto to backgrounds seemingly borrowed from Batman Beyond, Loonatics Unleashed feels pitched at the lowest, cheapest, and most derivative level.

The premiere episode, “Loonatics on Ice,” sees Acmetropolis invaded by robotic Vikings from another dimension. There are a lot of fights and a little feeble humor, but nothing to catch the imagination. Certainly there isn’t anything like the wicked chemistry of Teen Titans, which deftly combines drama, laughs, excitement, tension and style. The Loonatics themselves have no wit, no smarts, no sass, no subversiveness. Their method of crime-fighting (at least in this episode) is to charge in with big guns and big bombs and just pound the bad guys into submission. (They’re like Yosemite Sam with the energy knob turned down to four.) At twenty minutes, “Loonatics on Ice” feels like a very long and very boring hour as it replays the same laser blasts and recycles the same jokes over and over again.

I don’t see why the show had to be this way. (Ironically, it looked more promising back before they toned down the “scary” anime designs after much Internet criticism.) The original Looney Tunes shorts were not made for children, and they were made by a set of creators who had a very scabrous and even savage sense of humor. A show about a team of lean, witty, aggressive, in-your-face superheroes (think Superman played by Denis Leary) might have had something going for it. Something not just with sass but with genuine and ill-disguised anger. That’s the kind of Loonatics Unleashed I’d imagine the manic Bob Clampett or the explosive Friz Freleng making back in the 1940s—back when Bugs and Daffy didn’t just drop anvils and quips on Hitler and Goering and Tojo but sadistically humiliated them as well. This show is content just to blow things up.

It’s the relentless mediocrity of Loonatics Unleashed that most irritates. Well, ninety percent of everything is mediocre, and this new show fattens that statistic. Ultimately, it surpasses a show like Road Rovers only in the magnificence of its failure.

Loonatics Unleashed premieres Saturday, September 17, at 10:30am (ET/PT) on KidsWB.

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