A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle is a live action film featuring the classic characters from the early 1960s cartoon series. While the film adheres closely to the satire and all the goofy puns of the original, it also has some postmodern fun with cartoonish violence from those days -- characters falling from high places, characters flattened into two dimensions by trucks, planes crashing with characters emerging unscathed. The all-star cameo appearances occur almost as frequently as the nonstop wordplay; parents (especially those who grew up with the original Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, either when it originally aired or in perpetual syndication) will laugh out loud at some of the jokes, along with older kids. But the cerebral humor might go over for younger kids' heads. Still, this film comes as close as possible to capturing much of the style and humor of the original, and is a whole lot of fun.
What's the story?
In this live-action update to the classic cartoon series, Rocky and Bullwinkle, living in the animated world of Frostbite Falls since cancellation of their television show, are called back into action to defeat their long-time foes, Pottsylvanian spies Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo). The Pottsylvanian bad guys, including boss Fearless Leader (Robert DeNiro), have been brought into the real world and are plotting that perennial bad-guy favorite, total world domination, through television programs that turn everyone into zombies. Young FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) seeks out her childhood heroes to help her save the world.
Is it any good?
Fans of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show fondly remember its wisecracking sensibility, its refusal to take anything seriously (especially itself), and its terrible puns. The best thing about this live-action update is that it is true to those qualities. It's so unpretentious that it's impossible to dislike. There's not much to the plot, but there's plenty of gentle satire, lots of jokes and guest appearances, and, of course, some really horrible puns. There are also lots of movie references and so many stars show up for brief appearances that Whoopi Goldberg's character is named "Judge Cameo."
Kids may miss a lot of the jokes, but they'll love the puns and enjoy the interaction of the live and cartoon actors and the silly humor. Parents will enjoy seeing Rocky and Bullwinkle characters cope with the 21st century. The actors all do their best to create an impression in what is really a cartoon environment, but Piper Perabo's task is particularly thankless, as her character Karen isn't very interesting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the characters in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle are aware that they are in a movie -- what people call "breaking the fourth wall" -- and talk back to the narrator. When Karen is asked to explain her behavior, she says, "I didn't write this movie!" Have you seen other movies or TV shows that use this technique?
If you have seen Rocky and Bullwinke cartoons, how do you think the live-action movie compares? Is it as fun, and as funny?
Karen justifies stealing a truck and other dishonest acts by saying "ends justify the means." "But we're supposed to be the heroes," says Rocky. Do you think heroes should always be honest and law-abiding?
- In theaters: June 30, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: February 13, 2001
- Cast: Jason Alexander, Rene Russo, Robert De Niro
- Director: Des McAnuff
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief mild language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.