The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
Directed by Des McAnuff
Review by Matt Heffernan
Last summer, I had very low expectations for the live-action film version of Dudley Do-Right. It turned out to be not that bad, but it failed to make money like the George of the Jungle movie. Now, Hollywood is taking a third crack at turning a Jay Ward/Bill Scott cartoon series into a live-action film. This time, however, it is with their most popular characters.
In 1964, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" was cancelled from TV, leaving Rocket J. Squirrel (voiced by June Foray) and Bullwinkle J. Moose (voiced by Keith Scott -- no relation to Bill Scott, who did the original voice) unemployed with only meager residual checks to live on. Things weren't much better Boris Badenov, his wife Natasha, and the Fearless Leader of Pottsylvania after the Cold War ended. They decide to go to Hollywood, where they can get a movie contract, and escape from being animated characters on reruns.
Unwitting studio executive Minnie Mogul (Janeane Garofalo, the first of many, many cameos) sign their contract, and now Boris, Natasha, and Fearless leader exist in the real world (played by Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, and Robert De Niro). They start buying up TV networks, creating RBTV -- Really Bad Television -- in order to zombify Americans into voting Fearless Leader into the presidency. America's only hope are Rocky and Bullwinkle, so the FBI assigns Agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) to bring the moose and squirrel into the real world and stop the Pottsylvanians' scheme before it is too late.
That is the "basic" plot of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle: a film that, despite the appearance of the trailer, is pretty good. Like Dudley Do-Right, this film maintains the tone of the original show, except this one is far more successful. Obviously, the same Cold War satire is obosolete today, but the film does manage the same self-conscious humor that made the series so much fun.
I was quite surprised at the number and frequency of good laughs in the screenplay by Ken Logerman, who previously worked for De Niro's Tribeca Production on the original script for Analyze This. That's right, not only did De Niro play a role in the film, he was also a producer. Certainly, his presence helped keep this a quality production. Unlike some other recent "family" films, this one avoids low humor, instead using a high sensibility, even when delivering lame puns.
That may be a difficult concept to understand, unless you are a fan of the original show. Those people should not be too disappointed, even when the film threatens to get sentimental or too hip for its own good. Overall, it is a refreshingly satisfying experience that you can easily share with the kids.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan