The first decade of this millennium is often heralded as some sort of golden age for children’s films. Sure, most of Pixar’s best flicks came out in this period, and there were some winners in general, but I think people tend to view the films of their own childhood with rose-colored glasses. Most of these films are goddamn godawful. Just HOW goddamn godawful, you ask? Let’s find out together by checking out EVERY kids film between 2000 and 2009. From theatrical to direct-to-DVD to Disney Channel Original, we’ll look at ’em all because I am a glutton for punishment.
This week, we tackle two theatrical releases from 2000, “102 Dalmatians” and “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle”.
Note: this does not happen in the movie.
Really? THIS is the first thing I have to review? Awesome. Ok, here goes.
The film is a sequel to 1996’s “101 Dalmatians” which is in itself a live-action remake of the 1961 animated film “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” which is based on the 1956 novel “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” and OMIGOD I DON’T CARE. I have absolutely no idea how this film relates to “101 Dalmatians”, however, because I absolutely refuse to watch another shitty kids film as research for this one.
Wanna guess how long it took me to start hating this movie? Five seconds. Because that’s how long it took before a rap song about dogs started playing. Fuck this movie. The song then plays over the entire opening credits sequence, which lasts TWO MINUTES AND FORTY TWO SECONDS. Because I know when I sit down to watch a movie, I want to watch almost three full minutes of credits first. The actual start of the movie comes with our introduction to famed wannabe puppy murderer Cruella DeVil. She has been in prison for three years at the start of the film and has been reformed by a psychiatrist named Dr. Pavlov (Getit?). Cruella has gone through extensive therapy and now has no desire to harm animals. As such, she is released on parole. Then we meet Chloe, one of our protagonists and Cruella’s parole officer. She also hates Cruella and doesn’t believe in second chances.
Let me re-iterate that. She is a parole officer, who doesn’t believe in second chances. A PAROLE OFFICER. WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE. IN SECOND CHANCES. Really think about just how fucking stupid that is. Did she pick her career via a dartboard? We also meet Kevin, a dog shelter owner played by Mr. Fantastic himself, Ioan Gruffudd. One of his charges is a talking parrot that thinks it’s a dog. Joke.
Oh by-the-way, other than the opening credits, we don’t actually see a dalmatian in this thing until 12 minutes in. Chloe owns the dalmatians, of which there are four unimportant ones and the spotless Oddball. Wow, way to be a dick while naming your dogs, Chole. “Hmm, this dog looks different, what do we name it?” “Outcast?” “No, not insulting enough.” “Unwanted little freak of nature that no one will ever love?” “Too wordy.” “Oddball?” “Perfect!”
“You are different, and therefore no one likes you.”
Back with Cruella, we see the inside of her house and wow are there a lot of open flames as interior decoration. That seems extremely dangerous. I mean, she also seems to have the same tailor and hair stylist as Two-Face, so I can’t say I’m all that surprised.
DeVil really tries her best to turn over a new leaf, even helping to improve Kevin’s dog shelter with her vast fortune. Of course, as we later find out, if she ever returns to dognapping, all her money will go to fund the dog shelter because apparently her judge really favors ironic punishments. But anyway, it turns out that the sound of Big Ben ringing undoes all of DeVil’s therapy and she descends into madness once again. And then the rest of the film is spent trying to help this poor woman regain mental stability, right? No? They treat her like a super villain even though they’ve clearly established she suffers from serious mental illness? Greeeeaaaaaaat. So DeVil has a nightmare where everything is white and spotted and she goes crazy again. She digs out her old puppy coat design and decides that this time, she wants to add a hood to the coat. This means she’ll need… one hundred and TWO dalmatians.
Um… just a second, I have a question. If she can make an entire hood (which requires a decent amount of material) out of just one puppy, why does she need another hundred and one to make the rest of the coat? That’s just a waste of dead puppy. Anyway, Kevin and Chloe start dating and they for some reason have their dogs babysit each other? I don’t get it either. As Chloe and Kevin leave for their date, the dogs all watch a movie, which Chloe asks if it’s “suitable for the children”. Wait, she has childre– Oh, she’s talking about the dogs isn’t she?
Here’s a picture of dogs to distract you from how creepy that is.
So, after a buncha bullshit happens, Oddball foils DeVil by getting her baked into a cake which SHOULD kill her but it doesn’t. DeVil’s money goes to the dog shelter, the parrot realizes he’s a parrot, and Kevin and Chloe get together. Yay, happy ending. Oh, and Oddball finally gets her spots like all the other Dalmatians.
THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY & BULLWINKLE
This all might have been a mistake. The idea that I, one man, could take on so many awful films and walk away without some mental scars was hubris at its utmost, and this film was the bright sun to melt the wax binding my wings together. That’s a fancy way of saying I would rather fall into the sea than watch this film ever again. God damn it this one hurt.
The film, based on the sixties cartoon series is absolutely terrible. But it’s worse, because it KNOWS it’s terrible. And it doesn’t give a shit. Every joke is a nudging, winking acknowledgement of its own failings, as smug and alienating as a middle finger jammed into my eye socket. And all that used on a cartoon that had fallen into loving disuse. No one NEEDED to bring back Rocky and Bullwinkle, but nooooooo, someone decided to force them into the open like Captain America getting thawed from the ice. Ugh. So we open on a long animated segment showing Rocky and Bullwinkle falling into obscurity and WOW does it look bad.
I’d say this was animated in Flash, but that’d be an insult to the high quality flash animators out there. Honestly, how dare they make a movie about two icons of sixties animation and not even have the decency to hand-draw the animation. I mean, WOW. Legitimately disrespectful. Also, this movie has a narrator because the screenwriter was clearly a nonconformist who thought telling instead of showing would be “innovative”. So we meet Rocky and Bullwinkle who have pretty much no personalities but whatever. And then we get this little gem:
Narrator: “Even their wordplay had become hackneyed and cheap.”
Bullwinkle: “Nah, it was always like this.”
THAT’S NOT AN EXCUSE FOR BEING UNFUNNY, MOVIE!!!!!!!!! You can’t just insult the original cartoon while doing nothing to be funnier or better than it. After that, We find out that the villains of the original cartoon, Fearless Leader and his henchmen Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale have escaped into the real world by tricking a film studio executive. Oh, by the way, Fearless Leader is played by Robert DeNiro because everyone takes a job just for the cash every once in a while.
He’s the one in what looks like an SS uniform.
The villains plan to take over all television stations and change them over to RBTV (Really Bad Television), TV so bad it will hypnotize the viewer– By the end of this movie, RBTV will stand for Rocky & Bullwinkle Television, I’m calling it now. To stop them, the FBI dispatches Agent Karen Sympathy, who has to bring Rocky & Bullwinkle into the real world. She does this, and the trio have to road trip across the US from LA to NYC to save the day. Time for more dialogue:
Rocky: “Why don’t we take an airplane?”
Bullwinkle: “Because then it wouldn’t be a road movie!”
FUCKIN’ STOP. JUST… NO. This process, wherein a movie makes fun of its own potholes is called “lampshading” by the way. And, when done well, it can be really funny. It is not done well here. And it’s done so fucking often it gets aggravating. Here, let me explain why with a story:
Back in high school, I was paired up with this girl as my lab partner. She didn’t pay attention in class, and had no idea what she was doing, but she admitted that she didn’t have a clue. And at first, it was kind of relieving for someone to admit their lack of knowledge instead of faking it. But as she responded to more and more assignments with a shrug and a “wow, I don’t know WHAT all this is about, god I’m such an idiot.” All I could think was “Then maybe you should actually fucking try! If you see there’s a problem why don’t you get to work on fixing it?” This movie is that girl.
So now begins the road section of this movie. They drive around a bit, avoiding Boris and Natasha until Karen has to steal a car and gets arrested by John Goodman. Aww, no, C’mon John Goodman!! Whatcha doing here? Go be in a good movie!! So with Karen in prison, Rocky and Bullwinkle bump into Kenan and Kel who are students at Bullwinkle’s old school, Wossamotta U. (If you don’t get it, just say it out loud a few times). By the way, if you laughed at that name, don’t worry, it’s from the original cartoon. So they all go back to the college and almost fall into a trap by Boris and Natash– waitasecond. I recognize that building. And that one! Wait… no…. this movie was filmed at MY college. Nooooooooo… It can’t be.
Can you guys give me a minute? I gotta go get myself expelled.
Ok, so after leaving Wossamotta U, which we will NEVER SPEAK OF AGAIN, Rocky and Bullwinkle reunite with Karen who has escaped from prison. The trio is put on trial, but escapes after one of the characters acknowledges they’re ripping off “Roger Rabbit”. MOVIE!! STOP WITH THE FUCKING LAMPSHADING!!! Also, how dare you rip off one of my favorite movies of all time?
Pictured: all the creativity that went into making this movie.
The trio finds a biplane, but they get split up. Rocky gets over his flight anxiety (oh, did I not mention that plotline? Good, because it’s dumb) and he and Karen head off to New York. Bullwinkle winds up in DC over the White House because he’s dumb. That’s the joke. Unfortunately, this not being real life, he isn’t ripped to shreds by anti-aircraft fire for flying into restricted airspace. No, instead he’s emailed to New York (just go with it, we’re almost done) and saves the day by being really, really stupid. RBTV is renamed Rocky and Bullwinkle Television (CALLED… IT), all is saved and everyone lives happily ever after. Except Rocky and Bullwinkle because they’re still canceled. But the movie seems to forget this. And then there’s some sorta half-assed message about politics in the media? Maybe? I guess?
Oh, in case you weren’t already sad, this movie also includes a scene of Robert DeNiro parodying his famous “You talkin’ to me?” speech from Taxi Driver. Take that, film nerds!
Well, that’s two down, too many to go. I’ll be here, same time next week to rip into another two films. This may be an ambitious and painful task, but I am one hundred percent up to it. In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is…
You wanna dance, 2000s?
Let’s fuckin’ dance.