Sunday, October 9, 2011
The Adventures of a Rocky and Bullwinkle Remake Hater
Starting a blog post is like hosting a television show. Every time you have to think of something different to say, to set the tone for the whole thing. But enough of philosophy. I've been watching cartoons again, which, if you are a movie reviewer, is bad. Because there's one universal fact that has been respected until the 1990's, when big-name movies studios decided to break the sacred law: cartoons and movies don't mix. Actually, they do mix, quite often. The rule is, they shouldn't.
You probably know where this is going. Locksley saw another horrible cartoon remake (probably a cartoon she's got on a T-shirt somewhere) and now she's going to use my time and valuable internet space to rant about it.---Oh, how right you are.
The reason for my pilfering the internet looking for this truly diabolical picture is that, yes, again, I love cartoons. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, to be specific. My parents grew up with this show, my little sisters are now getting into it and even I, at one point in my very early life, was desperately in love with Rocky the flying squirrel (yes I know, squirrels, pigs, Volkswagen bugs...) It's another one of those nostalgia things I like to turn on when I'm feelin' mighty low, like Looney Tunes or Andy Griffith or bouncy German jazz songs. And you know when you stay up extremely late at night eating Butterfingers you stole from Mom and laughing your tuckus off at your own Boris Badenov impressions, your infatuated and it's time to break the illusion-
Very very easy to accomplish. Find the terrible remake the 90's inevitably made.
Shall I cite a few examples? Inspector Gadget, Looney Tunes Back In Action and yes, I'm going to say it's name again, Space Jam. There's is this grotesquely universal idea out there among the movie makers that people are going to pay to see their favorite cartoon characters in whatever horrible remake you want to put them in. It's a contemptible, hilarious, and ludicrous idea... It's an idea that anyone with a brain in their head should have realized wouldn't work...and I just kinda proved it's success by looking this movie up and watching it. Ouch. Let's uh...let's get on with the review...
There's very little plot, so I won't spend much time trying to make it coherent sounding. The beginning would have been enough to make me wanna leave the theater (if I had been watching it there) as they went WAY to far with the tongue-in-cheek narrations. Yes, the narrator from the show was snide and funny. Yours is not. It works well with a cartoon that moves one-hundred miles an hour and ends in a cliffhanger after 2 minutes to have a narrator who occasionally says something glib. It does not work well in a full length movie to have an annoying character who is sort of unseen and narrates the movie we are attempting to watch...and won't "sharrup your mouth" as Boris would say. Like I said, the beginning was terrible, and lasted forever. They seriously spend the first 30 minutes trying to obtain a Hollywood green light for the movie you are currently watching. That sounds like a funny idea, but it really wasn't. To make long story short, Fearless Leader (remember him?) Boris Badenov and Natasha get into the real world through, as the narrator calls it, "The magic of CGI." except their not CGI, their real people. Namely, Robert De Niro, Rene Russo and Jason Alexander. All three are very funny, and it's a shame they are in such a bad movie in the first place. (Fearless Leader- AKA- De Niro does ham up his part though, and being a Boris and Natasha fan I think more of them would have been funnier. Not that it would save the movie. Not even Paul Frees himself could have done that.) In a strange touch, the characters begin in their cartoon world, which is actually nothing at all like the "Frostbite Falls" of the 60's. The animation looks more like Dexter's Laboratory or the The Simpsons punning Rocky and Bullwinkle. Not a huge important thing but something that bugged me. The character of...what's her name...the girl that some forgotten actress named Piper Perabo is playing, is ridiculously underdeveloped. Not that I expected much artistic character development, but seriously, there's a whole (grant it, pathetic) subplot focusing on her 'Giving up her dreams of the past' or something like that so why not at least spend 5 minutes on her? And seriously, she tries to hard to be cute. What is she, twenty? Obviously this is some 90's star who's trade-mark image is lost on me.
The biggest problem is, it HAS funny parts, but the majority of them look like they were made by four year olds for two year olds. These people need to get it through their noggins that what's funny in a cartoon isn't funny in a high-budget movie that comes out in theaters. What's really tongue in cheek and snide in a kiddie show from the 60's looks way to much like it's not tongue in cheek and it's trying way to hard to be snide here.
The majority of the jokes center around Rocky and Bullwinkle's complete inability to relate with modern reality: ipso ergo, campy annoying puns about hip-hop music and the FBI. Plus this whole depressing plot about how miserable their lives have been since their show was taken off the air. Obviously, whoever wrote the script was still pretty bitter about that. I also completely proved how inane the plot was by missing two 10-minute parts of it the first time I watched it and never even noticing. I'm serious. Not a whole lot of points for the plot.
There is a beguiling tendency that gave the Rocky and Bullwinkle show a large part of it's charm, and which goes way overboard in the movie: and that is the statement of the obvious, in other words, saying what everyone else is thinking. For example, the narrator commenting on the plot's predictability, ect. In the movie this makes for a very annoying narrator who won't keep it's mouth shut. While in the show there was scene cut every five seconds, in the movie you wish there was, because as a substitute you get a really bad joke every five seconds. Still, this formula served for one of my favorite lines:
Fearless Leader: "There has never been a way to totally destroy a cartoon character until now."
Secretary: "What about that movie Rodger Rabbit?"
Fearless Leader: "SHUT UP THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT!!!"
I think it's especially funny to me because I hate both movies and wish a bunch of acid-like gunk would just wash the whole mess away.
Ok- so on to real reviewing. Cinematography? Script? Character development? You will forget they exist in those ignominious 91 minutes. Maybe that is why Roger Ebert defended it against all the other critics saying it was "A funny family movie." The CGI is, I guess, for the most part good- that is, to someone living in 2011 looking back on the special effects of 2000 only made me burst into laughter once. I can't even say it's one of those movies to turn on for the kids and leave the room, because there are several uncomfortably pushing the PG limit moments. And the narrator curses. What a ridiculously unnecessary thing to do! It was as if the producers wanted more than anything to make the children that had watched Rocky and Bullwinkle wake up and say "This is the 21'st century, here we curse and good doesn't mean good. Even Rocky and Bullwinkle know that. Get over those ridiculous morals you were taught as a kid and keep up with the times!
So yes, yet again I'm wasting my time reviewing a forgotten movie that has obviously already left the world's consciousness. But me, ridiculous little me, remembered laughing my head off at this as a teeny-weeny six and a half year old when it came on TV, and just had to ruin the memory. Still, I will continue to enjoy watching the cartoon- maybe more than usual now that I know how bad it could be- undaunted by the 90's and their shamefaced film-making. The original show-like most shows of genius- had an appeal that was multilayer-ed, hit-and-run, unexpected and hard to pin down. You can't make up something like that and know it will work. It just HAPPENS sometimes and then people start falling in love with it and end up talking about it for generations. There are bad shows, there good shows, and then there are classics. Rocky and Bullwinkle was a classic. People can write books about it and still not pin down exactly what made it so durn funny, but whatever it was, the producers of this movie never found it either. They might have been able to remedy this with a lot of actually funny jokes and high-class scenes of action, but they didn't. This movie bears the same title the MST3K people illustrated about "Attack of the Eye Creatures." That is, the makers of this movie "Just didn't care..."
So yeah, bottom line. Didn't like it much. Some people tried hard- mainly the actors who played Natasha and Boris and Fearless Leader, and the original voice of Rocky (June Foray) who returned to do her role. There are, buried amidst a lot of junky direct-to-video 90's rap a possible valuable moral kids are bound to miss and even some funny and snide comments on television. When told fearless Leader plans to release television shows that will turn the viewers into: "Mindless zombies totally incapable of independent thought." to which another man replies, "Totally different from regular TV." Wink wink.
There you go. I think the makers of this movie appreciated the original show, which snidely mocked the rest of the world, but obviously didn't want to take the time and money to make it live up to it's name. Totally different from regular remakes...
P.S. I promise to watch a good movie soon. Citizen Kane is on it's way. Not that, you know, everyone and his mother hasn't already reviewed Citizen Kane, but there is hope that in the future I'll be getting some really high-grade filmmaking into my system.
P.P.S. Anyone got a vintage Rocky and Bullwinkle lunchbox sitting around? Now that I think about it, that'd be pretty awesome. And forget what I told you about Rocky the flying squirrel. It's all over now.
I just found out that there was a 1992 made-for-TV movie called "Boris and Natasha" about...guess who. Well I say "not again!" I will never watch that movie. NEVER do you hear?!
Besides, I can't find it on the internet.