Directed by Des McAnuff, starring Rocky Squirrel, Bullwinkle Moose, Piper Perabo, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander and Robert De Niro

Think about it, the prospect of Robert De Niro sharing screen space with a 7-foot tall cartoon moose is enough to make anyone laugh. And after finding his funny bone in such rollicking style with 'Meet The Parents', hopes were high for more rib rupturing in '...Rocky & Bullwinkle'. But despite a stellar cast and some nifty special effects, the results are a major disappointment.

'The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle' was a cult 60's cartoon in the US, its creator, Jay Ward, gave children an early morning dose of anarchy and in-jokes with tales of a dumber than dumb moose and a thinking man's squirrel. Now the duo have got the big screen treatment from director Des McAnuff, a man who normally earns his crust with period drama (director of 'Cousin Bette', producer of 'Quills')- cue alarm bells. The plot sees Rocky and Bullwinkle freed from their cartoon realm and hooking up with bungling FBI Agent Karen Sympathy (Perabo) in an attempt to prevent their archenemies, Fearless Leader (De Niro), Boris (Alexander) and Natasha (Russo), taking over the world through hypnotic television. As a TV movie, this would probably cut the mustard, but there's just not enough depth of thought to sustain it onscreen for 90 minutes: it grinds to a halt midway and dwells too long on gags that do nothing for the story or for children who'll end up lost in references designed for adults.

Any hopes that De Niro will somehow save the day as Fearless Leader, are dashed when he decides to play it as a fearless cameo, thrusting Russo and Alexander centrestage (good, admittedly) and alienating his fans in the process. Given that his company Tribeca, produced the film, you would imagine he would make the most of its greatest asset. Then again, if Rocky and Bullwinkle weren't afforded the respect they deserve...

Harry Guerin