There are few moments as nice in this world as a genuine surprise, when the unexpected replaces the routine and, as a result, makes your day just a bit brighter. The element of surprise applies to all parts of life, especially film, and so I am happy to say Boris and Natasha: The Movie knocked me on my rear by being a very funny and, even more shocking, memorable little movie. I don’t think anyone would expect a movie based solely on the exploits of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s arch nemeses to work, much less a live-action one, but expectations can be bucked.
Dave Thomas and Sally Kellerman play the title roles, and they drive the film with great assurance and comic timing. The plot, such as it is in the crazy, mixed-up world the film creates, sees the agents leaving their Cold War-loving home country of Pottsylvania for the capitalistic shores of America. There, they are told by their always snarling Fearless Leader, they must locate a scientist who has just completed his latest invention: a microchip which can turn back time by three seconds. But first, they must integrate themselves into the U.S. culture, and that’s when things get hairy.
To be sure, the story is completely ridiculous, and only serves as a rack for the jokes to hang themselves on. And make no mistake, the jokes come fast and furious, especially when that old Rocky and Bullwinkle staple, the Narrator, opens his mouth. This is certainly the movie’s best gimmick, as the Narrator allows the plot to be completely self-referencing without seeming contrived.
In one sequence we see Natasha getting poked in the side by a doctor multiple times in a row, to which the Narrator aptly responds: “After a series of annoying jump cuts…!” Later on, at the appearance of a mysterious man clad in checkerboard style shoes, he pipes up once more. “Who is this strange man? Who is he working for? Did we give him ugly shoes just so you would remember them later on in the movie?” This kind of humor is rare these days, a sense of wry charm which has since been replaced by the gross-out minds of the Farrelly brothers and Adam Sandler. As such, I appreciate this movie all the more for bringing us back to a wittier style of writing.
There are other moments to enjoy as well, such as the abundance of seemingly random cameo appearances. John Candy pops up as a potato-munching mug named Kallishak, turning in an entertaining performance in his little time onscreen. There’s also the cameo by John Travolta of all people, who appears as himself trying to get a date with Natasha. This kind of stuff makes me wonder how big of a success Boris and Natasha: The Movie was intended to be, and seeing how the Internet Movie Database has no box-office stats, I can only hope it did well.
Lastly, what movie review could be finished without a discussion of wonderfully bad music? Now to be precise, this movie was released in ’92, but as we all know, the early 1990s were nothing more than the ‘80s taking their last breath. As such, there are a lot of Huey Lewis (or someone trying very hard to sound like Huey Lewis) singles running around this picture. It was kind of jarring to be watching Boris and Natasha only to then listen to someone as hilariously outdated as Lewis sing a song called “It’s Good to Be Bad,” but in the end it added to the film’s overall charm. This may be a hard nugget to track down, but it’s definitely worth the money, so why not take the chance?