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  Boris and Natasha Defective DefectorsBuy this film here.
Year: 1992
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Stars: Sally Kellerman, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, John Calvin, Paxton Whitehead, Larry Cedar, Christopher Neame, Alex Rocco, John Candy, Anthony Newley, José Eber, Sid Haig, Anson Downes, J. Jay Saunders, Arye Gross, Charles Martin Smith, John Travolta
Genre: Comedy, Adventure
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Cold War is finally at an end, and relations between East and West have thawed, but not for one tiny East European country nestled between Wrestlemania an Youresovania: Pottsylvania is that place, and they are still planning on waging a debacle on The United States of America, but lack the proper resources to do so. However, word has reached the Fearless Leader (Christopher Neame) that a scientist has invented a chip which will reverse time for three seconds - think of the invincibility a user of such a device would have at their fingertips. But how to claim this invention?

How about calling in your best agents? Who are not Boris and Natasha, as it turns out, but a mystery man advising Fearless Leader to persuade them to pose as defectors, whereupon they will lead the mystery agent to the chip and he can get it, then kill everyone in the vicinity to cover his tracks? That doesn't sound very funny, especially for a film based on the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of Jay Ward, but then, the heroic duo didn't appear as it was the two secret agents they were forever trying to foil who got to share the limelight this time - with one another. Yes, before the actual Rocky and Bullwinkle movie, there was this.

Unsurprisingly it was not only quickly forgotten, but scarcely even heard about when the company planning to release it in the late eighties found themselves bankrupt. Thus began a rather sorry fate for a production everyone involved evidently had medium to high hopes for, and if you caught it at all, it would probably be on television or some bargain basement videocassette rather than seeing it in a cinema. Nevertheless, call it goodwill towards the characters or perhaps some of this genuinely hitting the funny bone, it did gather a small following of those who appreciated its silly sense of humour and anything goes for a gag plotting.

Well, maybe not anything, as this was noticeably none too keen to throw the budget about, much of which appeared to have been raised by product placement deals judging by the amount of prominently featured brand names in many scenes. Who says product placement is a licence to print money? Anyway, to star in this the producers secured the services of Danny DeVito and Anjelica Huston, not bad at all in 1988, though they dropped out in favour of the less famous Dave Thomas of SCTV and Sally Kellerman, who not only had a producer credit but was surprisingly apt as Natasha. Thomas was fine, yet tended to scowl his way through the movie as his accent wavered, but his leading lady showed some decent comic chops.

Actually, the cast was an odd one, with obscure faces mingling with cult stars and recognisable character performers. Thomas's SCTV co-stars Andrea Martin (who has a twist in her role's identity that defies belief) and John Candy (probably the biggest celebrity here aside from a cameo halfway through) appeared, as did Sid Haig as a Middle Eastern despot and Anthony Newley in his last role showing up long enough to get shot (!). The best aspect to it wasn't anyone who appeared onscreen, however, but the narration of veteran voice artist Corey Burton whose irreverent quips managed the spirit of the originals that the rest struggled with. The main problem was for a ten minute cartoon these affairs could be a delight, but stretched out to feature length and it was clear they had a bit of trouble filling out the time, leaving the tone lurching between uneasily trying to take the characters seriously and more obviously sending them up. It was slightly better than the 2000 incarnation, mind you. Music by David Kitay.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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