Moose and squirrel, comrades.
Dusting off yet another cartoon icon from the small screen, Hollywood delivers ''The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,'' an amusing little romp that should prove viewer-friendly to tykes who've never seen the show and parents who wax nostalgic over Rocket T. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose.
While the movie continually teeters on the brink of abject corniness, it never quite topples off. And it doesn't hurt to have Robert De Niro, Rene Russo and Jason Alexander camping it up as cartoon villains come to life.
By way of refresher course, Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle the dimwitted moose ran in short TV cartoons created by Jay Ward from the late 1950s to mid-'60s. Spoofing the Cold War, the series pitted the duo against Eastern Bloc spies Boris and Natasha and their boss, Fearless Leader.
Thirty-five years after the show is canceled, Rocky and Bullwinkle subsist on 3 1/2-cent residual checks from reruns. Meanwhile, the evil spies have traveled to the only place where reality and the cartoon world are hard to distinguish: Hollywood.
Through a movie deal, Fearless Leader (De Niro), Boris Badenov (Alexander) and Natasha Fatale (Russo) are pulled into the real world as flesh and blood.
They buy up air time to flood the public with their broadcast network, Really Bad Television, programming so inane it turns viewers into zombies. Rest assured, the movie is fiction, not a documentary.
With people's minds turned to oatmeal, nothing can stand in the way of Fearless Leader's plot to take over the United States. Nothing, that is, except moose and squirrel.
The FBI dispatches mushy-headed agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) to bring Rocky and Bullwinkle into the real world to fight their old foes. After another Hollywood gag, the pair is hauled off the pen-and-ink pages as computer-animated characters wandering through a live-action landscape.
''I think we're on the wrong show. Look how well they drew that girl,'' Bullwinkle tells Rocky, pointing to Karen.
The movie is mainly a cross-country trek loaded with sight gags as Boris and Natasha try to dispatch moose and squirrel with a diabolical device that sends animated characters to the graveyard where all bad programming winds up: the Internet.
''There has never been a way to destroy a cartoon character until now,'' Fearless Leader boasts.
''What about that movie 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?''' a laboratory lackey asks him.
The movie has a bevy of celebrity cameos and more bad puns than you can shake an antler at, a staple of the TV series.
Rocky is voiced by June Foray, who originated the squirrel's vocals in 1959. Keith Scott provides Bullwinkle's voice.
De Niro, whose Tribeca Productions produced the movie, has some fun with the part. ''Are you talking to me?'' he asks Boris, mocking his ''Taxi Driver'' persona.
Russo and Alexander do decent takes on the look, sound and incompetence of Natasha and Boris, lamenting that moose and squirrel have foiled them for 40 years ''and they don't even know our names.''
''Let's face it, dahlink,'' says Natasha. ''We suck. We can never catch moose and squirrel.''
It's a tough task sustaining 90 minutes worth of action for characters that ran in three-minute bursts in the cartoon series. With episodic scripting and a stream of narration also provided by Scott, director Des McAnuff tries to keep up the rapid pace of the original.
Inevitably, the movie lags in places and is so self-conscious of itself and the TV cartoon's past that some of the humor grows labored and repetitive.
Of course, it's not rocket-squirrel science the filmmakers are producing. It's just a pleasant bit of whimsy known as moose and squirrel.
Distributed by Universal, ''Rocky and Bullwinkle'' is rated PG for brief mild language and runs 93 minutes.
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