The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)

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Review by Mark Walker of Marked Movies

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As a co-host for this Blogathon, I like to begin by stating – for the record – that there will be no bias from either myself or Tyson regarding the movies of DeNiro. We may be massive fans of the actor, himself, but there’s no denying that some of his films just don’t cut it. As I have seen a great number of DeNiro’s movies, I was, unfortunately, left with ones I’d rather avoid but in keeping with the rules of the Blogathon I still had to choose. I did, however, hope against hope that I might have misjudged and that I’d still be treated to something unexpectedly good. Alas, my preconceived opinions proved to be correct. This is, quite possibly, the very worst cinematic experience of my life.

Criminal mastermind Fearless Leader (Robert De Niro) and his hench-persons; Boris Badanov (Jason Alexander) and Natasha Fatale (Rene Russo) manage to break free of their animated world and leap into reality. Their plan is to start a villainous television show that hypnotises people in order to take over the world. Enter, flying squirrel, Rocky and talking moose Bullwinkle to thwart their plans of domination.

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Director Des McAnuff seems to have good intentions with this film adaptation of Jay Ward’s 1960’s TV show and the concept in bringing it back to a contemporary audience is a plausible one. Robert Zemeckis managed to successfully blend live-action and animation with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1988, so who’s to say that it couldn’t be done again?. With these type of films, anything goes but, unfortunately, where this goes isn’t anywhere noteworthy. It could be applauded for it’s self-referential approach or it’s intention to bridge the gap between older and younger viewers, or it could be derogated for it’s unrelentingly dull plot and distinct lack of creativity. On this occasion, I’m camping out on the latter.

It’s actually quite hard to determine it’s target audience as it’s referential puns are likely to go over children’s heads while being too fragmented and ridiculous to please older viewers who may have a nostalgic view of the original cartoon. Granted, it’s fully aware of it’s silly and ridiculous nature and, without any pretensions, plays it accordingly. This self-awareness still doesn’t stop it from being a complete misfire, though. When it get’s to the point of DeNiro sending up his own “You talkin’ you me?” ad-lib from Taxi Driver, you realise that any good or humorous intentions this film has, simply aren’t working.
The thing is, it actually has a lot of talent on show. Besides DeNiro, there’s Rene Russo, Randy Quaid and a whole host of cameos from the likes of John Goodman, Janeane Garafalo, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal. On screenwriting duties is the Oscar nominated Kenneth Lonergan who has also been responsible for Gangs of New York and the troubled but underrated Margaret. With all this talent involved, I can only assume that they had delusions of adequacy.

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As for DeNiro, it could be asked why he was even involved in the first place. For a start, he was apparently a big fan of the show and secondly, him and his production company Tribeca where pulling the financial strings. His performance is actually quite entertaining and he seems to be rolling with the punches but, in all honesty, he’s hardly in it and despite his game efforts whenever he is onscreen, he just can’t turn this stinker around.

Without a doubt, I’ve taken one for the team here as I think this is probably the worst DeNiro film I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing about it, that flushing down the toilet wouldn’t cure. I think I would have proffered something along the lines of the following photograph…

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44 thoughts on “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)

  1. So I guess you’re starting from the bottom up? So what’s next Mark, Little Fockers or Showtime? LOL. I gotta say, unless trapped on an airplane, I’ll probably never willingly hand over the 90 minutes required to watch this. On the bright side seeing the picture of De Niro dressed up as a quasi-Nazi reminded me of this great sketch from Mitchell & Webb:

    • Hey Dave! Nice to see over here buddy. Welcome to my (our) new joint site. πŸ™‚

      Unfortunately, I’ve already suffered Little Fockers and Showtime. Thankfully, I’m not writing about them, though.

      I’ll give that link a little peek in a bit. I actually think I might know the one your talking about.

      By the way, man, I know you don’t have a site yourself and we spoke about you contributing something on mine a while ago. Just to say, you’re more than welcome to contribute a little DeNiro piece on here once the Blogathon is over with.

  2. I never could finish this thing. I tried, I really tried. But as Mark said so well, it just flat out sucks. Way to get the crap out of the way. Now for the cream! πŸ™‚

  3. Nice review. I think I saw this when it came out in theaters but I fortunately remember hardly anything about it. Unfortunately, I can still recall that painful Taxi Driver bit.

    • You are a very lucky man, not to remember much about this. I wish I could erase it from my mind. Especially DeNiro’s unwise decision to send-up one of his (and cinema’s) greatest lines.

  4. The film & the actors are true to the original cartoon characters, but the cartoon & all of its context to no translate to the big screen in any way. The entire thing is too abstract, as cartoons used to be, to appeal to toddlers. As you mentioned, it bombed with any adults. Who may have wanted the usual experience of seeing something familiar from their youth turned into a comedy of the present.
    One must be careful with all these cartoons brought to life. Including the Marvel & DC Comics extravaganzas. Most, if not all, are actually artistic successes; because they indeed are true recreations by the producers & directors, complimented by very good character acting. But they do not appeal to modern audiences or audiences unfamiliar with, say Spiderman or Yogi Bear.
    One -must- judge them as recreations against the original cartoons & the acting -must- adhere to the cartoon characters. In this particular film, Russo & Alexander are the standout talents in their attempt to be Boris & Natasha. Yet, De Niro seems lacking in his portrayal & performance. Which is just sad.

    • That’s some very good points you make Marc. I couldn’t have said them any better myself. As I’m not that familiar with the original show, I couldn’t fully compare. I’m aware of it and the characters but it wasn’t that big in the UK. That being said, any recreation should still be able to stand alone on it’s own right with a contemporary audience and this just doesn’t. As for DeNiro, I actually thought he was quite amusing in this role but really he shouldn’t have went anywhere near the film.

      • If you mean, by standalone, that they must be immediately understood by the viewer; no. A film is what it is & it is the vision of the filmmaker that is all important. It’s his work of art. Whether an audience likes it is another matter.
        There are many films which rely on the viewer to already be informed of the context of the film. Films like these target those who know what they’re going to see & hope to appeal to those that have no idea what the underlying matter is.
        It is always up to the director/producer/whoever & there are many films which are not understood at first (or ever), as with any artistic endeavor.
        Obviously, this film was created to appeal to a narrow audience & a subset within that actually watched the original Bullwinkle cartoons.
        Not every film is meant for everyone.

        • Another fair point Marc. Any film should be entirely up the filmmaker’s vision but I still think it shouldn’t alienate an audience from the off-set. If you look at the likes of The Brady Bunch Movie or Starksy & Hutch for example – two films based on 70’s tv shows. I for one knew absolutely nothing about The Brady Bunch but the film actually turned out to be a smart little comedy. It worked, primarily, because it was delivered as a parody. The same could be said for Starksy & Hutch. I think if Rocky & Bullwinkle went down a similar path, it could have appealed to many more people.

  5. A great start. I’m looking forward to seeing this develop. Was this the film that marked the point when he became a parody of himself? Did he give licence to audiences to laugh at him?

    • That’s a fair point Dirk. I think the film that marked him being a parody of himself was a year earlier in Analyze This. However, this film soon followed and seen the emergence of a more playful and less serious De Niro that seems to have continued – on and off – to this day.

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the Blogathon, man. πŸ™‚

  6. Haha! Great review. Not seen it. But I DO have it on DVD. Know why? Because some shady guy was throwing away a HUGE bag of DVDs one night. Hubby saw him & asked if he could have them. One of them was Rocky & Bullwinkle. That doesn’t bode well. πŸ˜‰ Looking forward to this blogathon!

    • Haha! He was actually throwing away a bag of dvd’s and this was one of them? That was a very wise man, indeed. I would do likewise, If I were you. Get it in the bin. Absolute dross, this film was.

  7. WOW, you really are a huge fan that you’re willing to see this one Mark πŸ˜‰ Sounds like at least De Niro still merits even a single star out of 10 but my goodness, I think I’ll skip this one, ahah.

    • My best (and only) advice would be to skip this entirely, Ruth. It’s fun to see DeNiro play it silly but really, the film is a mess. Even my kids took absolutely nothing from this.

    • Haha! I know!!! I’ve seen most of his films, man. I had to choose something. This gave me a chance to see a DeNiro film that I hadn’t already, while introducing something to my kids as well. Needless to say, nor me or my kids found anything to enjoy here. 😦

  8. I can’t get behind Rocky and Bullwinkle any more. I used to watch the cartoon as a kid and then that stupid loser Joey on Full House started doing these horrible Bullwinkle impressions, which effectively ruined it for me forever.
    I’m also surprised that De Niro gave this the time of day. He could do any movie he wants to, and he says yes to this. This movie is clearly a waste of his effort and talent.

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