The Acclaimed Comedy Essay Behind the Canceled Looney Tunes Movie

Thanks for nothing, Warner Bros.
The Acclaimed Comedy Essay Behind the Canceled Looney Tunes Movie

Seemingly because Warner Bros. Discovery only sees the value in the Looney Tunes gang when they’re partnering with NBA stars to trick children into sitting through a soulless two-hour commercial for a streaming service, the upcoming Coyote vs. Acme has been scrapped in favor of a tax write-off. At one point it seemed as though there was some hope that the film could be sold to another studio, but now it will reportedly be discarded like a common truckload of E.T. Atari cartridges.

According to one source who recently spoke to The Wrap, Warner Bros. Discovery will most likely just “unceremoniously delete” the movie in order to get “$35-$40 million on the tax write-down” after turning down “handsome offers” from Paramount, Netflix and Amazon.  

Which is depressing to say the least, since the movie has a great cast, including John Cena and Will Forte, has garnered positive word-of-mouth, plus it was co-written by screenwriter Samy Burch, an Oscar nominee for last year’s May December. Blinking the film out of existence to fulfill some dubious corporate bottom line is antithetical to the very nature of art, which Warners claim to be supportive of, as evidenced by their recent self-aggrandizing documentary, which contained zero anecdotes about how the negative for Casablanca was casually burned in a dumpster for bookkeeping reasons. 

This isn’t to say that Coyote vs. Acme would be regarded on the same level as the Bogart classic, but it was based on a seminal piece of comedy writing: “Coyote v. Acme” by acclaimed humorist Ian Frazier. The essay, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1990, imagined a fictional legal document, in which a lawyer hired by Wile E. Coyote argues that his client endured “personal injuries, loss of business income and mental suffering” as the result of “the actions and/or gross negligence” of the Acme Company.

The lawyer, Mr. Harold Schoff, goes on to describe how defective products such as Acme’s Rocket Sled, Rocket Skates and Spring-Powered Shoes often caused him “bodily injury.” It’s a perfectly-calibrated piece of comedy writing; an absurd premise that is laboriously and intelligently argued. Frazier later attempted to break down the reasons why the essay worked so well, telling an interviewer: “‘Coyote v. Acme’ is just a way of getting people to laugh by doing something that’s a combination of the way you tell it and the content of what you’re saying. There are ideas that you don’t really know why they’re funny.”

The essay was included in Frazier’s book Coyote v. Acme, which won the first ever Thurber Prize for American Humor in 1997 (Frazier won the award a second time in 2009 for his book Lamentations of the Father). “Coyote v. Acme” has even been referenced in legal publications like the Texas Bar Journal.

So the decision to treat this movie the way most of us treat a fungal infection isn’t just a middle finger to everyone who worked on it, it also does a disservice to the respected source material. But hey, at least Warner Bros. Discovery is still going forward with their plan to expand the Twister cinematic universe. 

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