The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle

The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle

The nicest thing that can be said about The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle is that it makes a sincere attempt to capture the smart, subversive spirit of the original cartoon, good intentions that make its failure seem almost forgivable. The casting of Jonathan Winters in multiple roles speaks volumes about the filmmakers' laudable aspirations, as does a clever animated prologue that establishes an irreverent, self-referential tone. The prologue is clever without being funny, however, a trait indicative of the movie itself, which is full of clever conceits that go nowhere and gags that should be funnier than they are. Rocky and Bullwinkle ostensibly play themselves, washed-up cartoon stars recruited by spunky FBI agent Piper Perabo to stop a sinister plot perpetrated by their old cartoon foils, Boris (Jason Alexander), Natasha (Rene Russo), and Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro). Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Perabo head off on a cross-country trek from Hollywood to New York, giving screenwriter Ken Lonergan and director Des McAnuff a chance to pay tribute to the original show's mixture of postmodern cleverness, corny puns, and topical satire. But context is everything, and what's funny in an animated cartoon is far less funny in a big-budget would-be blockbuster. Almost no one here makes an impression, with Alexander and Russo giving lifeless performances and the bland Perabo on hand to drive home an utterly unironic "believe in yourself" message that's antithetical to the spirit of the movie's source. Rocky is far from the worst television-to-film transplant of all time, but it's an unnecessary, mediocre, fruitless exercise in adaptation for its own sake.

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