‘The Day the Earth Blew Up’ Review: Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Save the World in Side-Splitting Looney Tunes Movie

Look up “cartoon villain” in the dictionary, and you’re likely to find a picture of David Zaslav. Since taking over Warner Bros. Discovery, he’s cast aside not one, but two feature-length Looney Tunes projects. Last November, there was the live-action/animated hybrid “Coyote vs. Acme,” which was given the “Batgirl” treatment (except, unlike that film, this one was done, so the tax write-off reasoning doesn’t track). Lower profile but no less deserving of a proper release, WB Animation’s hand-drawn Porky Pig and Daffy Duck stand-alone “The Day the Earth Blew Up” was made for Max, but went on the block last fall. It’s still looking for U.S. distribution.

Fortunately, that didn’t stop the Annecy Animation Festival from giving “The Day the Earth Blew Up” its world premiere — and, one hopes, a better shot at seeing the light of day. (WB Germany will release it on Aug. 1, with several other international markets to follow.) As it turns out, “Day” is funnier than any film the studio has put out since “The Lego Movie 2” and a rare chance to see Porky and Daffy doing something other than playing basketball or moving merch. In this form, the duo reflect their amped-up 21st-century selves, as featured in a recent run of small-screen Looney Tunes shorts (the film’s director, Peter Browngardt, oversaw no fewer than five of them).

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The script for “Day” is credited to a whopping 11 writers, who deliver a plot involving an alien mind-control scheme by which chewing gum infected with extraterrestrial goo threatens to turn earthlings into zombies. It’s not Shakespeare, but definitely feels loony enough for the stuttering pig and duck-billed blabbermouth, who share a two-story house bequeathed by Farmer Jim, the swarthy and supportive father figure who took both animals under his wing when they were kids (or piglets/ducklings, as the case may be).

Browngardt earns big laughs early on sharing vignettes from Porky and Daffy’s childhood days, as well as presenting a montage of disastrous attempts to find employment, framed as a classic Looney Tunes cartoon. While it’s a hoot to be reunited with these two old friends — with their signature spuh-spuh-speech impedimenthhhh — there’s something about how they talk and act that reveals how stylistic innovations from Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have shaped the Looney Tune-iverse, especially “SpongeBob SquarePants.” (That’s no coincidence, considering that five of the screenwriters have worked on that franchise.)

Just look at the way the characters cry more in this movie than they did in the eight previous decades combined — during which Looney Tunes shorts were nominated for a dozen Oscars, winning two. Vocal MVP Eric Bauza (who performs both Porky and Daffy) brings a manic energy to the pair, while the green-skinned alien Invader (Peter MacNicol) comes across as a taller version of “SpongeBob” schemer Plankton — until the film’s big third-act twist, at least. In fact, with a few small tweaks, it’s easy to imagine the whole thing centered around a pineapple under the sea, rather than Porky and Daffy’s rickety farmhouse.

Right upfront, “Day” unleashes two outer-space anomalies on Earth: a planet-endangering asteroid and a CG flying saucer, which sends a big glob of glowing goo smashing through Porky and Daffy’s roof. Meanwhile, the intergalactic ectoplasm attracts — and subsequently possesses — the lab-coat-clad Scientist (both he and Father Jim are voiced by Fred Tatasciore). The goo turns humans into zombies, which is bad news, since the Scientist dumps a briefcase full of the stuff into the formula for Goodie Gum’s latest flavor, Super Strong Berry.

Soon the entire world is sampling the bubblicious new release, which takes over their brains and makes them susceptible to Invader’s commands. As presented here, Daffy is a hysterical conspiracy nut who’s perfectly wired to recognize such a scheme when he sees it. The problem comes in trying to convince the world that Goodie Gum has been compromised by space aliens, which means that Daffy, Porky and newfound love interest Petunia Pig (Candi Milo) will have to save the planet themselves. Petunia works as a flavor sampler for the gum factory, taste-testing everything from old socks to rotten eggs. She’s a hyper-capable nerd compared with these two bumbling morons, and together, they make a great team.

As silly as things get, “Day” keeps audiences emotionally invested by staying focused on three relatable ideas. First, there’s the lifelong friendship between Porky and Daffy, which is threatened by the whole Earth-blowing-up situation. Second, there’s the connection they feel to their house, which is similarly threatened by … you get the picture. And then there’s the buh-buh-budding romance between Porky and Petunia, which adds a sweet twist to things. Daffy (whose greatest desire is to smash things with his wooden mallet) wears on the nerves after a while, but the entire project — including a handful of fun fourth-wall-shattering asides — is crafted with love and a genuine respect for the franchise. Stay through the credits for a sequel promise the current WB regime has no intentions of honoring.

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