Published Jun 01, 2000It's hard to recommend a movie that is less than 90 minutes, yet manages to be too long, but I will. At times "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" drags along like an action hero without a cape, or a flying squirrel that can't fly, yet is funny enough throughout most of the rest to be worth it. The secret to enjoying this movie is not to expect too much. It is, after all, a light-hearted remake of a beloved little cut-out animation show that got cancelled in 1964.
CUT TO: 1964. Frostbite Falls. Rocky and Bullwinkle are living off residual cheques in a land decimated by greedy industrialists. Already we know the film is going to be full of adult references, and social commentary as well as the indomitably stupid moose puns. Meanwhile back in the "real" world of Hollywood, there is a ambitious young exec named Minnie Mogul (Janeane Garafolo) who is looking for the next hot thing, but all she gets are scripts that are too intelligent, and so into the shredder. Enter the arch-nemesis of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro) and his cohorts Boris & Natasha (Jason Alexander and Renee Russo). They offer her a very stupid comedy show, and she signs them up. This brings them into the real world, but their comedy is so stupefying, it will turn the whole nation into TV-watching zombies. So starts Fearless Leader's evil plan. Fighting animation with animation, we cut to the Oval Office where the President along with his generals (General Foods, General Admission, ha ha ha) employ the services of FBI softy/rookie Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo, of the sexy wallpaper film "Coyote Ugly") to find Rocky and Bullwinkle to help save the day.
I actually liked all these silly puns (of which there are plenty) but it's the adult bits that really shine. The whole film is almost worth it just to see Robert De Niro do a take on his "Taxi Driver": "you talkin' to me?" As usual, De Niro is a joy to watch, and he does fun kids movie better than I thought he would. (It was produced by his film company, Tribeca). There are also all the cameos, by Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters (playing three different parts), Whoopie Goldberg, Billy Crystal, David Alan Grier and John Goodman. De Niro's own daughter is in this film, Drena De Niro, in a small part as a RB-TV lackey. Director Des McAnuff , originally a stage director, is the man responsible for bringing the Who's "Tommy" to Broadway. His first film came in 1998 when he directed Cousin Bette starring Jessica Lange. Also, for those interested in pop-culture minutia, the "J" in Homer J. Simpson's name is an homage to Rocky & Bullwinkle, whose full names are Rocky J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. The "J" comes from creator Jay Ward's own name. Certainly this is not a "great" movie, but there's enough going on to keep it interesting and it's worth a matinee price.