Pepé Le Pew: Zee Best of Zee Best
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD from Warner Home Video.
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This latest release in Warner Bros.’ line of Looney Tunes Super Stars DVDs collects 17 animated shorts featuring France’s overly odorous and amorous skunk, Pepé Le Pew. With a total running time of just under two hours, this set boasts an impressive 14 shorts never before collected on video or DVD. As such, this collection proves indispensable for serious Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies enthusiasts.
Pepé Le Pew, at a glance, offers the least narrative latitude of any Looney Tunes icon. In the Pepé formula, a cat (or dog or something) winds up with a white stripe down its back only to catch the eye of the love-starved, stalker skunk, Pepé Le Pew. A chase ensues. It’s a simple formula, but it works, especially in the hands of Pepé guru, director Chuck Jones. In fact, one of the weakest Pepé vehicles in this collection, Arthur Davis’ “Odor of the Day” (1948), deviates from the formula entirely and garnered virtually no laughs in my home. In “Odor of the Day,” one of the two non-Jones-directed Pepé shorts, Pepé plays the typical Looney Tunes kook, not unlike the early Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny, which just doesn’t work.
Fortunately, Jones’ true-to-formula shorts account for almost the entirety of the Pepé ouvre. Jones brings such perfectly-timed comedy and visual creativity to every Pepé Le Pew short he helmed that this potentially repetitive formula feels somehow refreshed time and again. Jones’ hilarious misappropriations of the French language account for some of my favorite, not to mention the most creative, jokes in the Pepé shorts. Additionally, I find the variety of Pepé’s love interests rather refreshing. Pepé not only falls for unfortunately-striped, female housecats (as in Jones’ iconic, Academy Award-winning “For Scent-imental Reasons”), but wildcats and dogs as well, male and female alike.
The 17 shorts collected here range from 1945 to 1962, and account for every Pepé Le Pew vehicle and one Pepé cameo. They play chronologically so far as I can tell, and the shorts included are as follows:
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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