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:: The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle

It’s a difficult exercise in bringing cartoon to the live action motion picture. Many filmmakers have suffered through the inability to sustain a full-length feature. In “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, the director Des McAnuff and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan haven’t simply rehashed the cartoon series into live action. Instead, they crossed the characters over from animation to real. They deserve some credit for that, at least. Fans of the early 1960s television show will probably not be disappointed with the flying squirrel and the talking moose. The live action is so unpretentious that you can’t really dislike it, although it doesn’t reach great heights.

Cartoon stars rocky (voiced by June Foray) and Bullwinkle (voiced by Keith Scott) live in oblivion ever since the cancellation of their television series. Their old foes, fearless Leader (Robert De Niro), Natasha (Rene Russo) and Boris (Jason Alexander), have escaped from cartoon land into real life, becoming flesh-and-blood people with a plan to take over the world. Fearless Leader launches RBTV (Really Bad Television), a network that will turn Americans into virtual zombies and ultimately vote for him as President. Rocky and Bullwinkle are then summoned by FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo), who pulls them into real life. In remaining as cartoon characters, the result is a lot of mixed animation/live action scenes. Unfortunately, the idea of having Piper Perabo as an FBI agent doesn’t convince. She is a good-looking, sweet girl who is given the thankless task of acting beyond her years and wearing a denim pantsuit with tie. She is the one character who probably should be a little bit human, yet she looks like a one-dimensional cardboard character. It’s a real pity because I am sure we will see Piper in better roles in the future. 

The dastardly plan by Fearless Leader then involves sending Natasha and Boris on a cross-country chase to eliminate the opposition. RBTV is being fed on each television network. We see a test audience have their eyes glaze over with fixed smiles on their faces, as the bad guys celebrate in the sound room to the tune of “Secret Agent Man”. In the RBTV programming, the filmmakers may have been able to come up with more examples. The idea of the worst show ever is a potentially delicious scenario. There are a few funny moments but not nearly enough for consistent entertainment. Good cameos come from Whoopi Goldberg and John Goodman while the computer-generated images of Rocky and Bullwinkle are adequate. The way technology has progressed you would have expected the integration of animated characters into live action figures to be cleaner than it looks.

Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, and Jason Alexander all admirably imitate the bad guys in voice and appearance. Not a great amount of humour results, but they bring an enthusiasm to their roles. Russo is especially well suited as Natasha. In expressing dismay at not being able to kill the squirrel and the moose, she declares, “Ve suck!”

Not having seen any of the original series makes it harder to measure the success or merit of this film. The breezy pace and general cheerfulness makes it good, especially for young children or the 45-50 year-olds who first saw the series. The kids will be intrigued by the cartoon characters’ relationship with agent Karen. Will they get the banter? The film could be considered as too long in the transformation from a cartoon series but, overall, is slightly better than average when considered for entertainment value.