One of the distinct pleasures of the original “Rocky and Bullwinkle” — the defiantly crude animated television series with its own loopy charm — was the way creator Jay Ward made the show itself part of his satirical realm.
That self-referencing brand of humor has become routine in our cut-and-paste, post-everything, media-saturated world, so when screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan and director Des McAnuff spend most of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s scant 88 minutes explaining how the animated characters have come to exist in the “real” world, it seems not just dated, but desperate.
Yet, everyone involved here seems to be having a roaring good time, especially the actors (Jason Alexander, Rene Russo and co-producer Robert De Niro) who embody the cartoon villains Boris, Natasha and Fearless Leader. Now that the Iron Curtain has fallen on them, this heavily accented trio from the former Pottsylvania need new worlds to conquer, and proceed to set up the RBTV (really bad television) network to zombify Americans into electing Fearless Leader as president.
The heroic Rocky (June Foray, the original voice) and Bullwinkle (Keith Scott, who also voices the indispensable narrator) are made three-dimensional by baby-faced FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) and soon find themselves in an action adventure-road comedy because those are the genres she’s chosen at Hollywood’s Greenlight House. Get it? Most audiences won’t, but that doesn’t seem to matter. The movie industry insider jokes fly fast and furious, but there’s nothing that even approaches the gleefully silly satire of “Fractured Fairy Tales.”
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is actually entertaining when taken on its own limited terms, but it’s a textbook case of filmmakers who are so pleased with themselves that they don’t care if anyone else is in on the joke.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].