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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, German, Czech, Polish, Dutch
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Spotlight on Location
  • Production notes
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Web access

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 88 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Rocky (Rocket J Squirrel, flying mammal) and Bullwinkle (J Moose, 400lb upright-walking, umm, moose) first assaulted television screens in 1959, and under various names their show survived for five years before getting unceremoniously cancelled. Combining rudimentary anti-Disney animation (why go to the effort and expense of animating everything when you can just move a mouth?) with incredibly clever two-pronged scripting, it was a huge hit with children and adults alike (even running prime time on Sundays at one point) as while the kids were amused enough with the antics of the funny little squirrel and funny big moose, adults could pick up on the depth of humour that was generally/hopefully over the heads of the littlies. It has also been quite the influence on many a modern day favourite, most notably The Simpsons, with Matt Groening even admitting that Homer's and Bart's middle initials of "J' were a straight rip from the series, in honour of its creator Jay Ward.

As a cherished favourite of mine as a munchkin, when I heard Rocky and Bullwinkle were to be dragged kicking and screaming onto the movie screen to say that I was a little dubious would be quite the understatement, especially in light of the filmic travesties that were The Flintstones, Casper, Rocky and Bullwinkle's buddy Dudley Do-Right and most any other such 'effort' you could name. For me these often fell down due to feeble plotting, so after more than eight years from the idea germninating to the finished result, how do Rocky and Bullwinkle fare?

After their two biggest celebrities finished their TV run in 1964, their hometown of Frostbite Falls became crippled from entering re-run hell. The narrator was stuck at home commentating his life with his Mom, the forests were stripped bare to keep the town sustained (perhaps that's where all Ren and Stimpy's logs came from?) and our two heroes were left to sustain themselves on meagre residual cheques. Rocky couldnít even be bothered flying anymore, and when you're a flying squirrel by name that just isnít good. Meanwhile, in Pottsylvania, home of dastardly squirrel and moose nemeses Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, as well as their Fearless Leader, the fall of the iron curtain had caused much angst - just how are they supposed to take over the world now?

A plot is hatched - Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader go underground and dig their way to Hollywood, where they land in the TV set of one producer, Minnie Mogul (Janeane Garofalo). Fed up with scripts that are too intelligent, when the nefarious three pop up and pitch their idea for the Rocky and Bullwinkle movie she's all ears, offers a contract and through the marvels of modern cinema the three are released into our world (they are, after all, attached to the project) - hello Rene Russo, Jason Alexander and Robert De Niro (sporting a hairdo so slick it looks like it escaped from Devo's 'New Traditionalist' period). There's just one problem, the studio boss doesnít like moose pics - but the Pottsylvanian three are now on the looseÖ

Six months go by, enter FBI agent Karen Sympathy (get it?), considered not tough enough by her bosses, and with something to prove. It seems that Fearless Leader has been buying up all the cable channel time throughout the US for his RBTV (Really Bad TV), the plan being to air a myriad of spy shows so utterly terrible that the entire population will be turned into mindless zombies and will ultimately vote him in as president. Who do you call on to foil such dastardly plots? Why Rocky and Bullwinkle, of course - but just how can Ms Sympathy get them out of their 2D world?

After some nimble work by Karen the Rocky and Bullwinkle film is given the green light, giving our two heroes the means to pop into our dimension (donít think about it too hard, it wonít help). A road trip to RBTV's New York HQ in a gorgeous yellow new Beetle bug convertible ensues, as does a quick 35-year history catch up (these arenít the only Austin Powers-like moments to experience, either), with Boris and Natasha well aware of the fuzzy twosomes arrival and out to finally crush, mush, moosh, smoosh and otherwise pulverise moose and squirrel after so many previously bungled attempts. Armed with an arsenal of really silly cartoon weaponry, not to mention a "totally user friendly" CDI (Computer Degenerating Imagery) machine the chase is on. Can our heroes survive the many cartoon-like implausibilities lying in their way? Can they fend for themselves in this strange, not very flat world? Can they outrun the frankly ludicrous at times plot? Perhaps, however all this exposition is wearing me out...

  Video
Contract

Padding time. Why? Well, there's really not a lot to say here. Presented in a ratio of 1.85:1, and anamorphically enhanced, as should be expected of such a recent film the transfer is basically quite lovely. The incredibly rich, cartoon-like (of course) colours used for the film have all come across stunningly, with no signs of bleeding or over-saturation that can so often occur with films as anti-dingy as this.

If I had to look for anything negative to say I could mention the very rare instances of tiny white specks, however they are so fleeting and occasional that I probably shouldnít even bother. But I've mentioned it now, so what the hey! Other than that the layer change is a tad clunky there really isnít much more to say. WAMO have done a fabulous job with this transfer, and mention must be given to those clever-clogs ILM peoples for their stunning 2 1/2D renderings of Rocky and Bullwinkle, as through fabulous use of shadows they have made the characters' transitions into our world look utterly magical, and dare I say it almost believable (ooh, time for my next pill!)

  Audio
Contract

A gorgeous Dolby 5.1 mix is featured here, which makes superb use of the surround channels. In fact at one point when Rocky was shooming all about my lounge room it actually gave a lot more credence to one of the taglines for the film, "You'll believe that a squirrel can fly". Even the lip-synch for the animated cast members is top notch, the care that so obviously went into the making of this on display for all to see. With all the cartoon cling-clangery of effects that's flung about dialogue never fights a losing battle, even the thick Pottsylvanian accents of Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader were clear at all times.

Did I mention Devo somewhere back there? Well, Mark Mothersbaugh of the band provided the score for the film, who with his work on the likes of Rugrats and more of late seems to be carving a niche as the animator's muso of choice. He has done a great job of reinterpreting the theme from the original cartoon, which attacks as soon as the Universal logo first appears, and proves himself a dab hand at providing appropriately cartoonish incidental music throughout the feature. There are a couple of pop songs included, of note are an utterly dire and rather out of place Hollywood-on-steroids mushy ballad (Through the Eyes of a Child) over the closing credits (which I am embarrassed to note Mark had a hand in - Mongoloid this certainly ain't), and hoary '70s dinosaurs Supertramp's Dreamer pops up a couple of times seemingly as Rocky's theme song. I'd dearly love to know what prompted that decision!

  Extras
Contract

Whilst this film would appear to be ripe to provide us with all sorts of fabulous features on the technical whiz-bangery behind combining real actors with real computer-generated ones and the issues involved, sadly, and perhaps due to its relatively poor performance at the box office, there just isnít much to get too excited about here. That being said though, there is a 24-minute long Spotlight on Location featurette which does at least touch the surface of Industrial Light and Magic's effects work, but this touching consists mostly of occasional shots of boffins at computer screens with disembodies Bullwinkle heads rotating around and passing mentions of how real people and even stuffed toys were used as stand-ins to determine lines of sight for actors and such. For a feature that includes interview snippets with De Niro, Russo, Alexander, Perabo, director McAnuff, producers Tiffany Ward (creator Jay's daughter) and Jane Rosenthal, effects guy Roger Guyett and voice talent June Foray and Keith Scott it does have its informative moments, however on the whole I found it all to be just a little dry and hype-based.

So what else is there to play with? Well, the theatrical trailer scrubs up beautifully. It's 16x9 enhanced, looks magnificent, is around two and a half minutes long and features a few bits of footage and lines that didnít make the final film - some of which are quite funny. Other than that there are pretty standard cast and filmmaker bios, and very brief ones at that, and a few pages of reasonably informative production notes

Rounding out the extras are the DVD ROM features, which basically consist of a screen to view the video stuff on the disc, some web links plus a screen saver.

  Overall  
Contract

As much as I was looking forward to seeing this, I was ever so ready to detest it. How dare they mess with such an integral part of my childhood?! On release the reviewers were almost unanimous in their caning of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which after seeing it for myself leads me to believe that they just... didnít... get... it. If you were a fan of the original cartoon, and appreciated its groan-inducing puns, in-jokes and often warped and even borderline naughty humour then you should lap this up. Admittedly it can tend to get a bit too much for one fragile little mind to handle after a while, much like the South Park movie did on first viewing, so the decision to keep the running time of the main feature clocking in a at relatively brief 81 minutes would seem to be a prudent one.

As far as performances go, the prospect of seeing Robert De Niro camping it up as Fearless Leader should be enough to have anybody's curiousity piqued. Jason Alexander is (scarily) utterly believable as Boris (it's hard to imagine anybody else taking on the role and succeeding as he did), Rene Russo gives us a fairly good Natasha, plus a plethora of major names drop by in bit parts - Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg (as Judge Cameo no less), Randy Quaid, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters (in three roles!) and even John Goodman, who is of course no stranger to cartoon-crossovers. Character-wise there's great voice-work from the original Rocky (June Foray) and also Australia's Very Ownô Keith Scott as Bullwinkle, as well as The Narrator.

As a disc it provides OK value. The extras arenít as inspiring as I had hoped, but as far as audio and visual quality there is certainly nothing to get up in arms over.

If you tend towards slightly offbeat humour, and love a good bad pun then you really should give this a chance, even if you just give it a rent for a night. If you're a fan of the original series and can find within yourself the ability to get over any preciousness you may have and simply accept this for what it is, a lovingly and often cleverly constructed modern update of a true classic, then you should have a ball. Yes, it's rampantly silly, and has holes in the plot bigger than Roger Rabbit's (I had to mention him somewhere!) portable ones, but so did the original series - they just donít have commercial breaks to save the day in a feature film...


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      And I quote...
    "Hey Rocky, watch me pull another Hollywood cartoon remake out of my hat..."
    "But that trick never works!"
    "Not necessarily..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Home Built
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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