In the grand scheme of things, 40 years doesn’t seem like a lot of time, yet in popular culture terms, it can be an eternity. Suffice to say when the animated duo, Rocky and Bullwinkle finally made their debut on the big screen, a lifetime of events and conventions have come and gone. Provoking the question of if the antics of Rocky and Bullwinkle are even relevant. Luckily The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle has a lot to say about this topic and more.
At the core of the film’s existence is the dramatic shifts in society from the time when Moose & Squirrel were on the air. The Cold War is over, and Rocky and Bullwinkle are confined to the worse fate for any TV show character… Reruns. This combined with their cutesy home of Frostbite Falls in disarray, the duo set off to go sort this mess out. Meanwhile, rivals; Fearless Leader, Boris, and Natasha found a way out of the cartoon and to convert the average TV viewers into mindless vegetables, it is up to Rocky, Bullwinkle and FBI agent Caren Sympathy to stop them along the way.
This plotline manifests itself into a fun road-trip through America that helps shine a tongue-in-cheek look into the America of the early 2000s. Along the way, they meet all sorts of caricatures that feel right out of the show, as well as classics such as Boris, who is translated perfectly into real life by TV legend Jason Alexander. Robert De Niro is effective as Fearless Leader providing a head figure that is perfectly menacing and yet ludicrous, famous Cameos from Whoopi Goldberg and John Goodman also populate the landscape, enthusing the sensation of laid-back fun that is more than present in the film. The score and soundtrack help underscore this feeling, the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle theme gets replayed often, while joining it is the then-current sounds of Len. A favourite of mine is the track Dreamer by Supertramp, which is used to great comedic effect, just as the other tracks. In future viewings, it helps cement the film as a showcase of the style of the time, adding an unintended nostalgic quality to the movie.
Excellent casting and music can only take the adventure so far, the script shines in its own light, playfully highlighting most of the tropes these films contain, it is well executed ultimately providing laughs that everybody in the cinema can enjoy. The film has a strong awareness of itself and its reality and isn’t afraid to draw upon the idea for all its comedy potential. For a children’s film, it is wonderfully satirical. A lot of this is achieved through the skilled use of the narrator, who is as much of a character as the regular cast. His presence is frequently called out by the characters in an amusing post-modern, breaking the fourth wall, manner.
The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle provides a charming trip across America that’s not afraid to laugh at itself, as well as laughing with the audience. It’s an enjoyable film, even if you aren’t familiar with the original cartoon. It shows it can hold its own as a reboot and offers a potential model for other comedy show looking to reinvent themselves for the new millennia. And ultimately it shows after all these years, so much joy can still be experienced from the desperate attempts at catching Moose and Squirrel, regardless of the decade, and regardless of the format.
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