25 – The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

Somewhere in the heart of Frostbite Falls, our heroes save the world on a daily basis, hwarting both by design and sheer luck the nefarious plots of Fearless Leader and his cohorts, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The plots of those old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were tantalizingly simple. Helium-voiced Rocket J. Squirrel and terminally stupid Bullwinkle J. Moose had all the sense of an Eskimo in a desert sandstorm, but the cartoons were loaded with adult-oriented jokes (Veronica Lake??) that would please Mom and Dad, while the kids were easily hooked on the appropriately cartoonish violence.

There have been movies that have taken old-time cartoons and made them – or tried to – into live-action films. This doesn’t always work. Sure, The Flintstones was a good-enough movie, but what about the more recent Flintstones movie in Las Vegas? The creators of this movie tried the same thing, and they even made Rocky and Bullwinkle trying to adapt to the ‘real world’ – that is, they knew the difference between their cartoon home in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota and three-dimensional life.

Basic plot: Fearless Leader and company have left the cartoon world and are going to take over the real world. Whoa, THAT sounds familiar. So an intrepid, young, cute FBI agent (Piper Perabo, miscast and unnecessary) is assigned to the case by her boss (Randy Quaid, misused), and it’s up to her and the cartoon moose and squirrel to right the wrongs of the day.

I will say this much for the movie – aside from the now ho-hum special effects of making the cartoon animals seem real – it seems to stay pretty close to the spirit of the original. There are in-jokes (Nickelodean’s Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchel play “Martin and Lewis” – Dean and Jerry, anyone?) and some fun cameos that don’t detract from the movie itself. But it’s nothing more than a road movie with a little panache. The saddest thing is that the movie becomes less about Rocky and Bullwinkle as icons and more about the superfluous FBI agent. It seems like there were several writers in on this escapade, but only one (Ken Lonergan) is listed – either he’s REALLY schizophrenic, or the other writers wisely decided to be anonymous.

There’s also leaden pacing in some parts, not to mention a real herky-jerky filming style. Oh, but all is not lost. I DID laugh a lot. Ok, maybe not a lot, but some. It’s just an uneven movie – sometimes you laugh, and sometimes you sit there in silence. All in all, it’s not as good as the original, but since that almost never happens, you might walk away from it almost satisfied.

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