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ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Robert DeNiro, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Randy Quaid, Piper Perabo, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Des McAnuff
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1 Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: Universal
Features: Featurette, Trailer, DVD-ROM Content
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2001

Film ***1/2

The classic animated works of Jay Ward have found themselves in a fast moviemaking machine in the past few years. The first one to evolve was the surprisingly good and very hysterical George of the Jungle in 1997, with Brendan Fraser in the lead. Then in 1999 came the less then successful Dudley Do-Right, starring the same actor. As these movies were being released to theaters, I kept wondering if a movie version of my personal favorites Rocky and Bullwinkle would ever make it to the big screen. As it turns out, Tiffany Ward, the daughter of the late Jay Ward, had wanted to bring the moose and squirrel to the big screen ever since 1992. After years of legal clearances to bring back the characters, Ward found a willing producing partner in Robert DeNiro, and the movie was finally put together and then released in 2000. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a rousing, visually dazzling, and extremely funny movie that is very faithful to the spirit of the original television series, which I consider to be the best of Jay Wardís works, and the movie is the best adaptation of any of his cartoons. This is coming from a guy nearing his mid 20s, and still has a love for Rocky and Bullwinkle, so it goes without saying, to enjoy this movie; it helps very much to be a longtime fan.

The storyline of the movie isnít much different from the storylines of the TV series, which found the flying squirrel and stupefying moose constantly escaping the clutches of sneaky post cold war criminals Boris, Natasha, and their fearless leader named Fearless Leader. The movie opens by cleverly explaining how times have changed and how Rocky and Bullwinkle have been holding up since their show was canceled in 1964. The moose and squirrel are living together in Frostbite Falls, where they frequently receive residual checks off of reruns of their shows, which are usually about 3 Ĺ cents. Rocky isnít as confident as he used when the show was running. He canít find the strength in him to fly, while Bullwinkle has, um, well, letís just say he hasnít changed much. His current motivation in life is to travel to Washington to talk to the president about the tree situation in Frostbite Falls. It means a lot to the moose, because as Bullwinkle says it himself, ďIím on the board of the Wildlife Conversation!Ē

Meanwhile, the three villains have crossed over from 1964 Pottsylvania to present day Hollywood. Boris, Natasha, and Fearless Leader have also been transformed from animated form to human form, and are lavishly played by Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, and Robert DeNiro, whoís wonderfully over-the-top performance as Fearless Leader is a major standout in the actorís career, it simply has to be seen. The three plot to take over the world by establishing their own television network called RBTV, or Really Bad Television. Fearless Leader intends to create TV shows so bad that it will make viewers go brain dead, making it very easy for him to persuade viewers to get him elected president.

The FBI feels that in order to stop the villains, they must bring back the only moose and squirrel thatíve successfully foiled their plots back in the 60s. FBI Chief Cappy Von Trapment (Randy Quaid) assigns the case to cleverly named young agent Karen Sympathy, played by the spunky and witty Piper Perabo from Coyote Ugly. Karenís task is to transport Rocky and Bullwinkle from the animated world of Frostbite Falls to the lively world of Los Angeles. Fearless Leader, Boris, and Natasha are headed for New York to establish their broadcast of RBTV, and the three have to travel cross-country to stop them.

I mentioned earlier that the movie is faithful to the spirit of the original series, and youíve ever seen a single episode of the series, youíll know exactly what Iím referring to when you watch the movie. Everything from the quirkiness of the narrator, to the corny sight gags, to consistent uses of in-jokes is all here, just like they were back in the 60s. Needless to say, the animation of the characters has sharply improved. The early scenes in Frostbite Falls establish the old fashioned look that Rocky and Bullwinkle acquired, but once transported to the real world, the moose and squirrel acquire a more dimensional look, and the mixture of live action and animation is perhaps the best since Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The purpose of this movie is simply to make one laugh, which it does a glorious job of doing. Iíve always found the character of Bullwinkle J. Moose to be one of the funniest characters in the history of animation. His voice alone brings a smile to the face. If youíre a devotee of the original series, or are familiar with the tone of Rocky and Bullwinkle, I highly recommend the movie version as a guaranteed mooseterpiece of pure hilarity.

Video ****

The moose and squirrel have been given a whole new look, both in the movie and on this excellent video transfer from Universal. Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation, the movie glows with clearness and with color through the entire viewing. The opening scenes of animation, although of standard form, are displayed beautifully, and once the characters are brought into the real world, the mixture of animation and real life characters is simply astonishing to look at in the digital format. One of Universalís very best looking discs.

Audio ****

An equally terrific job is presented in the audio field on this release. Universal offers an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as a DTS track. Although I cannot comment on the DTS track, the 5.1 Dolby Digital provides a remarkable presentation of this movie, which is filled with a lively music score, as well as various sound effects that pick up superbly well.

Features **

Unfortunately, Universal didnít give this release the usual trimmings of their recent stride of releases. All we get this time around is a behind the scenes documentary, and a trailer for the movie, as well as trailers for three other Universal movies: Babe, Dragonheart, and The Flintstones. Some DVD-Rom content is also included.

Summary:

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a splendidly fun and entertaining movie that is loaded with laughs and wit in nearly every minute of its presentation, much like the original series. If you find yourself in a downbeat mood, and you need something to cheer you up, this will do a mooseriffic job!