Tiffany Ward, daughter of late Rocky and Bullwinkle creator Jay Ward, went to Robert De Niro's production company with a proposition. We can only imagine her pitch
"Hey, Robbie! Watch me pull a movie out of my hat! Nothing up my sleeve presto!"
Uggghhh. Didn't know her own lack of strength.
The resulting The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a combination live-action and animated farce, will dazzle the kiddies. Only thing is, the original Rocky and Bullwinkle TV cartoons were actually aimed at adults.
True, there's a good dollop of the wit and punnage that made the original series a knee-slapper among those smart enough to "get it." But some of the more "cartoony" stuff just doesn't translate to live action. In fact, the best part of the movie may very well be the animated segments at the beginning.
Somehow, on the TV show, it made sense that, in order to get to the treasure chest at the bottom of Lake Salle de Bains, evil Pottsylvanian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale had to pull the drain plug. But in the movie, seeing Bullwinkle stuff himself into a live-action computer scanner to have himself emailed just seems dumb.
Even worse are the moments when the live-action actors are treated like cartoons. Watch Boris (Jason Alexander) run around at double-speed! Watch him hover in mid-air till he realizes he's supposed to fall! Watch our suspension of disbelief go right down with him!
The story is equally lame. Boris, Natasha (Rene Russo), and Fearless Leader (De Niro) escape from toon-land and plot to take over the live-action world (and, or course, kill Moose and Squirrel). Their plan involves broadcasting RBTVno, not Rocky & Bullwinkle TV, but "Really Bad TV"to the nation to zombify the masses. Then, Fearless Leader can take over! (Could it be that maybe the filmmakers are trying to do same?)
Meanwhile, our heroes, Bullwinkle Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel, also have left their animated environs to save the trees of Frostbite Falls. Because of the Boris and Natasha threat, they wind up in cahoots with pretty FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo), the single most moronic character in the whole movie.
Other characters fare better, thanks to some zingo performances. Alexander's Boris is dead-on. De Niro rules as Leader. And Russo's stint as Natasha is anything but fatale.
And because movie icon De Niro produced this movie as well, a bevy of celebrities make cameo appearances. Among them: Whoopi Goldberg, Janeane Garofalo, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Jonathan Winters, who comes out of showbiz retirement to play three different parts!
But it's hard to ignore all the stuff the filmmakers figured didn't matter. Case-in-point, Bullwinkle's alma matter, Whossamatta U, decides to give the visiting moose an honorary degree. This spurs a big campus protest. Why? Who knows?
Rocky and Bullwinkle fans starved for Moose-nip and Squirrel-vittles shouldn't shun i>The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. It's still good to see our old pals. Plus, there's definitely the occasional good bit and LOL. Fans should merely expect to suffer some degree of disappointment.
So will other critics agree? Will the movie pull in the masses? Toon in for our next episode: "Rocky Box Office"...or..."The Moose that Laid the Golden Egg."
Written by Rob Medich