When Rocky and Bullwinkle hit our TV screens from 1959 to 1964, nobody had quite realised just how ingenious and creative the show was. This was the kind of show that had something in it for everyone with the children enjoying it for the madcap adventures of the titular duo trying to escape the clutches of Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader, whilst the adults enjoyed it for its witty use of in-jokes and sharp writing. Sure, it was still corny as hell especially with the jokes ranging from brilliant to lame, but it nevertheless still maintained that quirky and clever streak about it.
However, when the movie came out nearly two decades ago, it was slaughtered by critics and fans alike, which was not helped at all by the film’s craptastic marketing campaign - probably the reason why it became a box office bomb. Despite its near-universal rejection, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle has to be one of the most underrated movies of all time, as well as being probably the most faithful big screen adaptation of a popular children’s show.
It completely captures the style, spirit and tone that the original cartoon had by having the same witty writing, that’s perhaps a little bit better here, as we have the characters being more self-aware and breaking the fourth wall. In fact, the first twenty minutes is more concerned with getting itself green-lit by a major studio and both titular characters have entire conversations about how lame their jokes can get. We get plenty of in-jokes, sarcastic cultural references and celebrity cameos galore, which for the most part works really well (some, not so much), but then again, that’s exactly what Rocky and Bullwinkle was about.
As for the CGI, it actually works well by having the characters look like the cartoon and yet still look like they are part of the scene and interacting with the actual actors. Sure, it’s not up to the same high standard of Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Looney Tunes: Back in Action, but it works a lot better than other movies that have attempted to do the same type of style and failing badly. Cool World anyone?
Even the actors look game and are in on the joke; Piper Perabo gives a very cute and quirky performance and both Rene Russo and Jason Alexander deliciously chew the scenery together as the wicked duo of Natasha and Boris. Robert De Niro’s performance however is questionable at best; granted it’s better than stuff we have become used to seeing him in during the past decade, like Dirty Grandpa, Little Fockers and Machete, yet it still seems like he’s just phoning his performance in and awaiting his pay cheque.
In the end, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a baffling cinematic entity if there ever was one. It captures the spirit, essence and tone of the original cartoon and stays true to its core characteristics, even down to the jokes that ranged from hilarious to awful. In short, this is a faithful adaptation, which only raises the question of why this level of care and attention wasn’t applied to franchises that were more popular in comparison like Garfield, Tom and Jerry, The Smurfs and especially Avatar: The Last Airbender. If were never a fan of Rocky and Bullwinkle to begin with, then chances are that you are not going to like this film at all, but if you are a fan of the show and have a strong appreciation for films that have a quirky yet cute charm to them, then this film will prove to be an entertaining watch for you.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE (2000) / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: DES MCANUFF / SCREENPLAY: KENNETH LONERGAN / STARRING: JUNE FORAY, KEITH SCOTT, PIPER PERABO, JASON ALEXANDER, RENE RUSSO, ROBERT DE NIRO / RELEASE DATE: 19TH JUNE