Yeah, I know the reaction. I think everyone who sees the poster or trailer have the same reaction. Well, now that I think about it, there were two reactions. The first was: has Robert DeNiro done anything more embarrassing than this? The second was either “oh god…” or “Why?”. Because it is just one of those concepts that shouldn’t be made into a movie.
For one I don’t know why this had to be made into a live action film period. I know in Hollywood there is a perceived hierarchy of movies and doing something live action is somehow better than an animated movie. It is why Akira can never be left alone and every year we get the “AKIRA is being made live action!!!” news headline. But in an age where movies like Finding Nemo are crushing other live action movies (or in the case of an already existing franchise The Simpsons animated movie) I don’t get what the fetish is. People just haven’t learned. There are things you can get away with in cartoons that you just can’t in real life. The real life Scooby gang looks friggin’ stupid, the Flintstones looked hideous, and a real life Homer Simpson would be a wide awake nightmare.
But even overlooking the big picture of live action animated movies in general, Rocky and Bullwinkle still shouldn’t have been considered for a full length movie. Why? It is the same reason I gave a shudder when The Three Stooges came out as a film. I’m sure the Farrellys wanted to be faithful to the material; I had no problem with that. It was because most times the Stooges were best taken in small doses which is why the shorts were great. They got in and out fast and the Stooges never overstayed their welcome. Rocky and Bullwinkle was really a 20-ish minute show and it wasn’t even completely filled with Rocky and Bullwinkle. Remember Dudley Do-Right? Peabody’s Improbable History? Fractured Fairy Tales? In the show things played off like a variety show which made things fresh and interesting. But when Rocky and Bullwinkle don’t even fill 20 minutes of their own cartoon, how in the hell are they going to fill 90 minutes? I don’t think I can hold your suspense on whether this movie is bad. But the real question is how bad? I gauge the absolute worst on the level of the Rocky and Bullwinkle NES game which I actually played btw.
If I were to praise this movie it would be that, in terms of other cartoons turned live action movies, this one does stay more faithful to the source material than most. We don’t get the other segments like in the cartoon, but the overall bad puns and self-referential humor of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon is present.
But then that transitions to the big problem of this movie. This movie only really has one note and it hammers it and hammers it and hammers it for 90 minutes. You are going to be bludgeoned with cheesy lines and puns that should all be followed by the “WAH WAH WAHHHHHH” over the soundtrack. Just look…
R: Bullwinkle, you weigh 400 imaginary pounds. B: Yeah, but it’s all moose-le.
‘Bullwinkle, can you rappel?’ ‘Sure. I’ve been repelling viewers for years.’
Cappy: Bullwinkle, allow me to be frank.
Bullwinkle: OK, allow me to be Bullwinkle.
Cappy: I’m Cappy Von Trent.
Bullwinkle: I thought you said your name was Frank.
Cappy: Shut up Bullwinkle.
Bullwinkle: All right Frank.
You get the gist. Now I’m fine with a cheesy pun every now and then. But after sitting through an entire movie you get fed up. I actually made a note. There was a moment where I had to look at the timer because that was just about where I got bored. It was the moment where the plot went about as far as it could go, and the humor was overstaying its welcome. I still had an hour to go at that point.
I could even have forgiven the beyond bare bones plot and the lame humor if there was any kind of characters in it but there is not. I know, I am bitching about characters in a Rocky and Bullwinkle movie but hear me out. Having character arcs or having something for the characters to overcome is not limited to serious dramas. Take the recent Muppets movie for crying out loud. They actually have a similar story in that both acts are struggling in a world where they have lost their relevancy. But the muppets had their own problems of getting along and the human characters had to deal with moving their relationship to the next level and whatnot. I’m not asking for deep insight here but you have to give the characters SOMETHING to do.
In fact, one of the only slightly interesting things was the female protagonist FBI agent Karen Sympathy, who was driving the plot along. I’ll give it to the actress Piper Perabo, she was acting the shit out of this movie. And for a movie like The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, she didn’t have to give much effort. Of all the real actors playing the cartoon characters, the only one I felt did a decent job was Rene Russo as Natasha. I say that and she is the only actor to get a Razzie nom for this was Rene Russo. DeNiro is just kind of in this movie and doesn’t contribute much besides embarrassment. Jason Alexander is actually really bad in his role. Most of the time he reverts to George Costanza and he has these prop teeth that he wears that was extremely distracting rather than amusing.
This isn’t the worst thing ever. I’ll admit there were sparse moments where there was a self referential joke or a pun that even got through my defenses. Although for each of those moments there was another that was painfully embarrassing. Take, for example, one of the few times this movie actually goes “modern” and Bullwinkle gets “jiggy with it”. And the less said about DeNiro doing his “You talkin’ to me…” shtick in this movie, the better we will all be. Really, this movie is just a chore to sit through. By the time the cartoon would have been over Rocky and Bullwinkle runs through all its best material and you still have to sit through another 70 minutes. There is no plot, no characters, and there is nothing else to distract you from the monotony like the show would have. And really, why the hell do we have to have a $76 million dollar Rocky and Bullwinkle movie? At the end of the day, that is the question investors should have been asking. But no, this isn’t as bad as the NES game as there are few things worse than that. The movie is dull but not offensive and far from the worst thing ever.