Aside from a few sight-gag chuckles, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) is deeply unfunny, and cursed with a very muddled premise: The self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking characters from a long-cancelled cartoon series are magickally transported into a live-action “real world”, which still conforms to totally unrealistic cartoony logic and physics… so what was the point of that then? In the “making of” featurette included on the DVD, everyone talks about the challenges involved in translating the old-timey cartoon into a mixed-CGI-and-live-action movie, but no one addresses the burning question behind all that effort: “Why bother?” To my mind the only decent film of this kind is Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which the need for flesh-and-blood actors to interact with cartoon characters was dictated by the innovative setting and engaging storyline… whereas the “making of” featurette here makes it clear that the decision to produce a live-action Rocky & Bullwinkle movie was reached long before anyone came up with a story to fill it! So, the tail was wagging the squirrel from the very beginning… and it shows!
Still, it’s almost worth watching for Piper Perabo‘s uber-adorable turn as ‘Karen Sympathy’, an FBI agent assigned to escort the title characters to Washington, and aid in the defeat of their eternal nemesis ‘Fearless Leader’ (played by Robert De Niro, pointlessly pissing his legacy down the drain). The actress already looks like she was drawn by Disney animators, and here she’s given free reign to turn her Bambi-eyes, acrobatic brows, and chipmunk-cute smile up to eleven, as she essays a character trying to suppress her inner-child and act tough while gushing over a pair of irrepressible talking animals. In theory, she could have had an interesting arc going on, and there’s some lip-service paid to the notion of “being true to yourself” in the finale (echoed in the closing credits song), but it’s never really backed up by anything that happens in the preceding scenes… I mean, it wouldn’t matter whether she acted like a “grown-up” or obeyed her inner-child, since nothing she does seems to have any consequence, due to the elastic and irreverent nature of the “reality” in which she’s operating. So this skimpy attempt to pluck the viewer’s heart-strings is weak, watery sauce at best.
Co-star Rene Russo was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for her turn as ‘Natasha Fatale’, and she really is pretty damn awful here… Kristen Johnson would have been a much better choice for the role, but why drag her into this mess? Meanwhile, Janeane Garofalo has a brief cameo as ‘Minnie Mogul’, the unscrupulous Hollywood producer who invites the cartoon villains into her world via a hastily signed contract… Whoopi Goldberg plays a judge named ‘Judge Cameo’ (tch!)… and Paget Brewster has a single line as the presenter of a brief talk-show parody. Meh.