The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (U)
MANY of my fellow critics left this blend of cartoon and live action muttering about having their time wasted by a piece of obvious excrement.
But Rocky and Bullwinkle is a much cleverer film than many imagine, given that its entire raison d’etre is about poking fun at bad films which arise from Hollywood’s apparently insatiable desire to revamp, re-package and plain remake the old TV series of the past.
This one resurrects the ’60s cartoon duo – Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle the dumb moose – for a new generation of kids that doubtless will love it.
But where it goes further than most films of its type is not so much in the blend of animation and live action but in the choice of actors to play the villains, namely Robert De Niro as Fearless Leader and Rene Russo as leather-clad spy Natasha Fatale.
Neither stars would participate in something like this if it wasn’t going to be a laugh and if there wasn’t something else bubbling away beneath the surface. There is both, but the laughs come not from the antics of the two crap and clueless heroes (or the trio of crap villains, come to that) but from the stentorous voice-over which just rips the whole plot apart.
It also features cameos from the likes of John Goodman, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and Randy Quaid in a series of funny interludes which keep the plot moving.
The main draw is star/producer De Niro, replete with scar, monocle and cod German accent, like Werner Klemperer’s Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes all those years ago.
He marches around shouting ‘Ve must kill ze moose und zer squirrel’ and having a giggle with lines like ‘Are you talking to me? Vell, I am zer only von here!’, which is a direct link to his Taxi Driver past.
In short, De Niro appears to have discovered his funny bone in recent years, what with Analyze This, Meet the Parents and now Rocky and Bullwinkle. He’s funny, and he knows it. but Mike Myers’ Dr Evil does it better.
While it is reminiscent of Inspector Gadget, Mr Magoo and Who Framed Roger Rabbit in its construction and content, it is nevertheless a kids’ film with a satirical and often surreal subtext.
Consisting of criminally bad puns, bad jokes and ludicrous plotting – and it’s all deliberate – The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a triumph of surface inanity.
There must be more going on than that. Is it really a rage against terrible telly (hence the gag about RBTV – Really Bad Television – which turns people into zombies; no change there, then)?
Probably not. It’s just a daft film – funny, self-deprecating but with a wicked streak of self-parody which seems to scream ‘This cartoon series was never any good in the first place. This is what happens when you throw several million dollars at it’.
See it for De Niro in peaked cap and jodhpurs, and for Billy Crystal as a mattress salesman. It doesn’t get any dafter than that.