"Looney Tunes Super Stars: Pepe Le Pew" – Too Much of a Good Thing
How many times can you tell the same joke before it stops being funny? In the case of the Looney Tunes Super Stars: Pepe Le Pew DVD, this is not just a rhetorical question; by my count, one joke appears entirely unchanged at least three times across the 17 shorts on this disc. There are a lot more that change only in the most minor specifics. Admittedly, anybody reasonably familiar with the Looney Tunes characters shouldn’t be too surprised by the repetitive nature of this collection, since Pepe Le Pew may be the menagerie’s most one-note character. This collection of all 17 of his cartoon appearances managed to be more entertaining than I thought it would be, although I would definitely advise against marathoning the entire disc at once.
The biggest surprises on this disc come at the start, in the first three shorts that are still establishing the character. Not that it takes very long, of course: the first two shorts “Odor-able Kitty” and “Scent-imental Over You” define Pepe Le Pew immediately as the incurable romantic pursuing a not-so-willing lover, and he stays that way for the remaining 15. The surprises come when both these shorts end in ways that really wouldn’t fly after 1948’s “For Scent-imental Reasons,” which standardized the Pepe Le Pew formula. The third short, “Odor of the Day,” puts Pepe in a Bugs Bunny short, making him a real stinker in more ways than the usual without giving him a line of dialogue. However, after “For Scent-imental Reasons,” only the small details really change from short to short. Settings change, the wooed not-a-skunk can end up looking like one by accident or by design, and the particulars of the chase will vary, but other than that, there’s really extremely little variation in the structure of a Pepe Le Pew short (discounting “Dog Pounded,” which is really a Sylvester and Tweety short with a Pepe cameo).
This is not to say that these shorts aren’t funny, of course. There were more than a few big belly laughs elicited while watching this DVD, especially in catching Michael Maltese’s fractured pseudo-French (my favorites being the perfume bottles labeled “Parfum sans Merci” and “Eau Eau”). Even so, I also have to admit that my attention span started wandering after watching more than 2 or 3 of them in a row. Summarizing or reviewing each one of them would be an exercise in tedium for both reader and writer; suffice it to say that there’s some very funny material on this disc, but it’s also not much of a surprise that the crew of the Termite Terrace only did a Pepe Le Pew short once a year or so.
13 of the 17 shorts on Looney Tunes Super Stars: Pepe Le Pew are new to DVD, with one more (“Past Perfumance”) getting remastered from the earlier Bugs Bunny’s Valentine DVD. As far as I can tell, the video and audio quality of all the previously released shorts is identical to the releases on the Looney Tunes Golden Collections; some (like “Odor-able Kitty”) still look a bit faded and grainy, but the later shorts all look terrific. If nothing else, the amount of unreleased material on this DVD gives it definite appeal to the collectors, archivists, and hardcore Looney Tunes aficionados just for the gap it fills in the historical record, and the low amount of recycled material makes repurchasing some of it a lot easier to swallow. The DVD offers a choice of full-frame or widescreen on insertion, which affects the presentation of 9 of the shorts (see the full-frame vs. widescreen comparison for “Who Scent You?” by clicking the thumbnail to the left). Sound is in mono, and there are no extras on the disc except trailers.
While one might argue that the Road Runner/Coyote shorts were also telling the same joke over and over again, I still feel like those shorts managed to take a basic theme and play infinite variations on it (mostly involving the Coyote blowing up, falling from a great height, or being crushed by large, heavy objects). In contrast, Pepe Le Pew is really just playing the exact same song over and over again, with extremely little difference between any given performance. The song is pretty good and it’s always well sung, but after hearing it a few times, you’ll be more than ready for something different. Looney Tunes Super Stars: Pepe Le Pew is valuable for historical purposes just for remastering this material and bringing it to DVD, but like perfume, Pepe Le Pew is something best appreciated in small doses.
(Special thanks to Ian Lueck for information on past releases.)