From 1959 to 1965, animator Jay Ward cooked up 325 episodes of The Rocky and Bullwinkle show, a crudely drawn but surprisingly clever cartoon about a goofy moose with a penchant for corny puns and his flying squirrel straight man. Together, they strained again and again to stop the evil schemes of Pottsylvanian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale and their fearless leader, Fearless Leader. The show was aimed to kids, but it’s obvious that Ward was also hip to older audiences when he poked fun at the Cold War and weaved always more elaborate puns so pathetic you couldn’t help but chuckle. And now, after 35 years of reruns, everybody’s favorite moose and squirrel are back for new adventures, and this time they’re on the big screen!
The movie takes off as Fearless Leader and his mischievous spies con a studio executive (Janeane Garofalo) into signing them a deal, which somehow leads to their arrival in the “real world”, no longer cartoons but three-dimensional characters played by movie stars. Robert De Niro seems to be having a great time going all-out zany as Fearless Leader (well, he did produce the film), but as for Jason Alexander’s Boris and Rene Russo’s Natasha, they sorta look the part but they seem to wonder what they’re doing in this silly, nostalgic romp. Anyways, Fearless’ evil plan this time around is to launch RBTV, a channel consisting solely of Really Bad TeleVision that will hook American audiences and transform them into mindless zombies. Fearless will them go on the air and tell them to vote for him as their next President, which they will do promptly in their brainwashed state.
But wait, there is still hope, as the head of the FBI (Randy Quaid) sends out wide-eyed, bumbling agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) to save the day with the help of, you guessed it, our old friends Rocky J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose, who have been living out in retirement in Frostbite Falls. The three are in for a wild ride through America, as they go from Hollywood to the RBTV station in New York. This road comedy will include numerous attacks from Boris and Natasha, a speech at Wassomatto U (say it out loud), smashed cars, incidents with justice, celebrity cameos from the likes of John Goodman and Whoopi Goldberg and of course, plenty of lame puns! “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” isn’t high art, but like that other adaptation of a Jay Ward cartoon, the Brendan Fraser vehicle “George Of The Jungle”, it’s a colorful, amusing kiddy flick that you can enjoy even if you have hair in funny places. It sometimes drags, but it remains modestly entertaining, which is due in no small part to the cheerful, very sympathetic performance of Piper Perabo. Worth a rental, or a matinee if you’re a fan.