Universal // 2000 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 7th, 2001
Yet another TV cartoon to big budget movie bomb...
You remember Rocky and Bullwinkle, don't you? You know, the oversized moose who sounded like a weird clone of Brad Garrett from "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Rocky the flying squirrel? Sure you do...it was a funny and goofy cartoon that was easily enjoyed on the small screen with simple drawings and lame puns, given birth by creator Jay Ward. Now enter some big Hollywood mogul-type. He's decided to take a much-beloved '60s children's show and decimate it by producing a mega sized film that is live action and contains hardly any of the fun from the original production. Sound like fun? Well, apparently audiences didn't think so, as this turkey sank like Jimmy Hoffa with cement shoes on. If you missed this in theaters (which wasn't hard to do), then you've got a second chance as The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle is now on DVD!
The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle picks up where the TV series left off. Rocky and Bullwinkle have been living in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, while living off residual checks from re-runs (around 3 to 4 cents a check). yes, things aren't going so well for our heroes. But things are about to get complicated.
Those no-goodnicks Boris and Natasha are scheming with Fearless Leader to take over the world (bad guys planning on world domination? Get outta here!). In a daring and plot perpetuating move, the threesome dig their way over to Hollywood to scheme a way into making a "Rocky And Bullwinkle" movie (when they're brought out of TV land into the real world, they explain this by saying they're "attached to the project"). Now the villainous three are played by Robert De Niro (Analyze This), Rene Russo (Buddy) and Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld").
So, the bad guys are now free to roam around the real world and wreck havoc on the citizens of the U.S.A. Enter Rocky and Bullwinkle. They too are brought into the real world (via 3-D animation) and teamed up with FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo of Coyote Ugly fame). Their mission: stop Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader from taking over the world (which they plan to do by using RBTV, or "Really Bad TV" to turn people into unsuspecting human vegetables).
Okay, so the plot isn't brain surgery. What were you expecting from a movie called The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle?
Along the way wacky antics and dangerous pratfalls will occur, plus some cameo stars will show their mugs for a few chuckles. Will Rocky and Bullwinkle save the day? Will Boris and Natasha take over the world? Will the tarnish of this film ever wipe off Robert De Niro's movie career?
Only time will tell.
I saw The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle in the theater during its initial run back in the summer of 2000. Suffice to say, I wasn't thrilled. My thoughts were that it was boring, pandering and altogether fluffy. I was hoping that my rewatching the DVD would help me find some reasons to give the film higher marks than before. Alas, this was not to be.
The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle's first and biggest problem is that the idea of the cartoon is not enough to sustain a full-length feature film. As a TV show, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show" was funny because it was such cheap, ridiculous entertainment. The show never, ever took itself seriously, knowing full well that bad puns and dippy artwork were its best assets. A show based solely on puns and gags usually doesn't keep very well, but "Rocky and Bullwinkle" has that certain charm to keep audiences watching (children and adults alike). Mix in the fact that it was played in the early '60s and you have a show on your hands that was uniquely ahead of its time.
Now, take that same show and try to make it into an intricate, star studded film. What do you get? The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle. I shake my head back and forth like a disappointed father.
However, let's start with some good. The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle is not all bad. Upon a second viewing on DVD, I did find some places where I laughed a few times. Historically, cameos have come to be one of the funniest things you can put in a movie (not including uncredited performances, like that of Gary Oldman in Hannibal). National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1, Airplane and even Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood all present films where cameos often evoke the biggest guffaws of the film. The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle is no exception in this department. With such faces as Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg showing up, there is always a fun moment of "hey, look who's in this film!" for both kids and adults to enjoy.
There were also some nice self-referential moments in the film as well. I have to give credit to any film that allows its narrator to let us know that many of the scenes and meetings taking place are "implausibly coincidental." One of the film's biggest laughs comes when De Niro spoofs his own image, making reference to the well known Taxi Driver "You talkin' to me?" speech. I give De Niro high marks for being one of the best actors to do both high drama and lowbrow comedy (which The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle surely is).
The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and, as one par with new Universal releases, looks great. Colors showed no signs of washing, blacks were ultimately solid and dark. There was no digital artifacting or edge enhancement present. The image is crisp, clean and bright, just the way we like our DVD's here at the Verdict.
Audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. Both are excellently mixed and well done. DTS has a slightly better sound to it (as usual), but is hardly noticeable in that area. Music and effects are mixed evenly with no straining to hear dialogue. Another fine audio presentation by Universal.
For extras Universal has short changed "Rocky and Bullwinkle" fans. The biggest extra on this disc is a "Spotlight On Location: the making of The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle" documentary, presented in 1.33:1 full frame. The general bulk includes interviews with director Des McAnuff, producer Jane Rosenthal, and actors Piper Perabo and Robert De Niro. Overall this is an interesting look at some behind-the-scenes action (including some nice information on how Rocky and Bullwinkle were drawn into the shots via computer generated graphics).
A theatrical trailer is included as well (non-anamorphic) which is, sadly, more interesting than the film itself. The typical production notes and cast and crew bios are also included, plus some DVD-ROM features for your Mac or PC.
Unfortunately, The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle suffers from performances that are dead on, yet lack any real charisma (save for Piper Perabo, who almost overflows with too much charisma). Jason Alexander and Rene Russo are fine as Boris and Natasha, though their characters are secondary to the rest of the cast. It seems like they pop up every once in a while to throw some cartoon dynamite down or attack them with a laser beam, but otherwise are relatively useless. De Niro as Fearless Leader chews up the scenery using a voice that sounds like he's having his co-co's squeezed. I must say that I admire De Niro for doing trying a part that is completely different than anything he's done before. Whether he's a nut ball in Taxi Driver or a goofball mobster in Analyze This, De Niro has always taken parts that stretch his acting chops in every direction.
As for the real stars, Rocky and Bullwinkle do well with the parts they're given. Of course, we all remember Rocky's shameful past of starring in soft-core skin flicks like Rocky My Boat and There's A Squirrel In My Pants. Here Rocky is able to redeem himself with a nice performance and well-executed stunts. Bullwinkle is aptly fitting in a part that was tailor made for him. Though I hear the part was between Bullwinkle and Dick Van Patton, I'm happy to report Bullwinkle won the part and gives the performance his all.
I wasn't thrilled with The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle. However, I know that many reviews enjoyed the nostalgia and goofy aspects of it. Though I can't recommend buying The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle on DVD, children may enjoy it as a rental much more than adults (which is, after all, who the movie is mainly aimed at). I can't shoot The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle too much; it does strive to be something different, and was much better than The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas. And that's a huge step in the right direction.
Hung Jury...though it's not my cup of tea; others may think this is innocent and free to go. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2001 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Spotlight On Location: The Making Of The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Notes
* Cast and Filmmakers
* DVD-ROM Features
* Official Site