moviebuff801: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle Review

Posted: April 6, 2013 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews, Time Capsule Reviews

Release Date: June 30th, 2000

Running Time: 1 hour and 32 minutes

Written by: Kenneth Lonergan

Directed by: Des McAnuff

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Piper Perabo

Ah, the joys of youth.  The years where everything is so much more carefree and optimistic, and almost every movie we see is good primarily because there are bright colors, things move on the screen and animals are capable of an extraordinary feat like talking.  As a result, we all have those movies we like as kids, but when we look back on them when we’re older, we have to question whether or not there was something other than sugar in our Kool-Aid.  This brings me to today’s topic of discussion, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, or what it might as well be called, Giant Pun: The Movie.

Seriously, back when this was released in 2000, were there a lot of people foaming at the mouth for a Rocky & Bullwinkle movie?  I just can’t imagine there being that strong of a “yes” in answer to that question.  Anyway, in this … I guess you could say sequel to the cartoon from the 1960’s, the famed moose and squirrel are transported from the land of reruns and into the real world after their enemies, Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro; yes, that Robert De Niro), Boris (Jason Alexander) and Natasha (Rene Russo) have been literally pulled there themselves.  Fearless Leader has concocted a plot to hypnotize the American public into a vegetative state and then convince everyone to vote for him as President.  And just how does he plan on accomplishing that?  By creating a television network known as RBTV, or Really Bad Television, and airing shows so bad, they actually numb people into a state of unwavering compliance.  Rocky and Bullwinkle are actually “greenlit” into our world by FBI agent Karen Sympathy (like I said, Giant Pun: The Movie), played by Piper Perabo, and the three team up on a cross-country journey to reach Fearless Leader’s headquarters before the villain can address the nation.  But, this wouldn’t be a Rocky & Bullwinkle movie if Boris and Natasha weren’t trying to stop our plucky heroes at every turn, and so there you have it.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here; this movie has NOT aged well.  When this first came out, for some reason, I was obsessed with it.  Looking back on it all these years later, I can see why it would work for my nine year-old self.  And, if I’m to give it any credit now, it’s pretty wise in its approach to the whole story, and the first ten to fifteen minutes are actually kind of clever, but then the film grows more and more monotonous as it goes on and doesn’t develop into anything more than just a really bad pun.  Basically, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a one-joke movie, and that joke becomes less funny and more tiresome around the 50th time it’s hammered over our heads.  Yes, we get it, you’re pointing out just how bad and corny this all is.  But, in so doing, the movie is also working against itself.  Just because a movie is on its own joke doesn’t automatically make it smart, clever or good.  It has to do more than just poke fun at itself every few seconds, but that’s all The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is interested in doing, and nothing more.

This would have been more forgivable if elements such as the acting, special effects and overall storytelling were better, but they’re really not.  First, I have to start with Robert De Niro, not just because he’s the biggest name in the credits, but also because he’s also one of the producers.  That means he thought this was a good idea or … I don’t know.  All I know is that this would be the first of many mediocre, if not outright bad performances from him that would continue throughout the decade.  The role of Fearless Leader isn’t exactly one that demands subtlety, so I suppose I can’t knock the performance too mu – oh, screw it, this is Robert friggin’ De Niro doing a horrible accent and wearing a slicked-back hairpiece that just looks like dressed-up roadkill.  Never before have I actually found De Niro to be outright annoying in a role, but lo and behold, I present to you Fearless Leader.  Normally, I would just blame bad writing here, but De Niro, again, was somewhat instrumental to this, so I have to hold his feet to the fire here. Now, I’ll admit De Niro shows off some nice ridiculous energy in his scenes, but like the whole movie, it’s too one-note.  By comparison, the work by Jason Alexander and Rene Russo is equally fun on a surface level, but the script gives them little to do, and whenever they do get a chance to carry some weight, it all falls flat.  Rocky and Bullwinkle themselves are … well, they’re the same as they were in the cartoon.  I remember watching the cartoon as a young kid, but I also remember being “eh” about it.  This movie made it clear it was because of them.  On the other hand, I did enjoy Piper Perabo’s earnestness and spunk as Karen Sympathy, plus she’s not too bad on the eyes, but nobody in this production can escape the film’s tired requirement of winking at the camera.  Or in some cases, smiling at the camera as that high-pitched Ding! is heard.  You know, in case you forgot this is a self-aware cartoon adaptation somewhere in between all the self-referential humor that bombards us nearly every thirty seconds.

While on the subject of the movie’s self-awareness … look, I realize that’s the whole point.  If you go for that kind of thing, then chances are you’ll enjoy this movie.  And there are some genuinely inspired one-liners here and there.  But that’s ALL this movie has.  Screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan and director Des McAnuff never seem interested in moving past that.  If you think I’m being too harsh on this film, then let me remind you of another one called Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  Perhaps you’ve heard of it.  That film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, merged cartoons and live-action in clever and funny ways, but it didn’t just stop there.  It also took the time to really develop its story and characters in very entertaining ways, and the result was a smart and fun film that took full effect of its fun little universe.  The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle clearly tries to replicate that success, but the results are nowhere near as successful.  Whereas Roger Rabbit cruises along without any trouble, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle instead gets stuck in neutral and then, much like Bullwinkle himself at one moment in the film, goes crashing right into a wall.

I at least give Rocky and Bullwinkle credit for actually trying to make something clever, rather than just throw a barrage of immature kid jokes at the screen and see what sticks, but even at a mere 92 minutes, the film feels overlong.  And despite the effort that’s obviously on display, the movie curiously starts to feel tired, and fast.  Rather than making a feature-length movie about these characters, the producers would’ve been better-advised to just make a half-hour television special.  But even then, I still wouldn’t have recommended it.

*/****

Comments
  1. I saw this movie when it was new, but I was an adult at the time. It was one of my few negative theatre expenses. This film has nothing to recommend it… bad acting throughout, and the premise doesn’t work for the characters — I’ve never been a fan of “cartoon characters enter the real world” plots, as they do a disservice to the “reality” that the characters existed in.

    Worst of all, though, was that it was completely missing the wit and humor of the television series. Sure, a child’s eye view of the cartoon might have thought it was all about bad puns, and that appears to be the only thing the child-like writers latched on to. But the series had a downright acerbic wit to it and a strong satirical bent.

    To me, the original Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were second only to Looney Tunes in hilarity. And this film is worse than Space Jam.

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