For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
We like to pretend it's not real. We like to act like the end isn't actually nigh. But after tonight's episode of Community, that cruel (albeit, terrible ratings-induced) undefined hiatus begins. While no publicly chosen award can undo it (thanks for trying, TV Guide readers), we can reflect on what the series does best - besides homages and high-concept episodes. We've come to love our ragtag band of community college students and it's not just because Annie could cure cancer with her Little Mermaid eyes or because Abed's Han Solo impression could provoke lust in just about anyone with a pulse or because Troy's smile could light up a room so brightly it can cause temporary blindness. Each member of the study group has some outstanding talent or characteristic that makes them unique from every other sitcom character we could ever even come close to loving the way we love these characters (which is also the way Abed loves TV characters, so ha!). And so as one last selfish indulgence before we part ways (for now), we've put together a list of Community's characters' superpowers.
I never knew that crying could be such a viable act of comedy, but any time the water works start flowing for Troy Barnes I laugh so hard it feels like a boa constrictor has wrapped itself around my body and cut off all the oxygen to my brain - in a good way. And it's not the just the fierceness with which he commits to his comedic temper tantrums, but the instantly classic one-liners that accompany them almost every single time. If NBC has copywritten "My whole brain is crying" or "Set phasers to love me" I probably owe them about a million dollars in licensing fees.
Anytime the group is divided over Chicken Fingers or choosing new study group members, Jeff is there to deliver a speech like he thinks he's Mel Gibson on a battlefield somewhere in Scotland. And no matter how much of a pretentious douchebag he is (and he's big one) it almost always works. Take for example, this instance, in which he even manages to find a convincing argument for letting CHANG into the group. CHANG. I don't know how to slow-clap for him via text, but I bet Jeff could dream up a speech that could convince me to devote my life to figuring it out.
Britta: Being a Buzzkill
She may have started out as the cute blonde who served as the reason Jeff joined the study group, but we quickly learned one very important lesson: Britta is the worst. She even managed to put a dent in the most epic game of Dungeons and Dragons in the history of fantasy role-playing games with her gnomes are people too psycho babble. She throws out judgements and literary references with no means of backing them up. She'll protest just about anything. She's a total buzzkill - but we somehow still love her. Plus, her abilty to squash anything fun has an added bonus of Troy's inventive ways of telling her just how awful she is. "You are the ATT of people." "You are the opposite of Batman." "You are a pizza burn on the roof of the world's mouth." Take your pick.
Shirley: Switching from Sweet Condescension to Her Scary Voice
It took us awhile to understand Shirley's place in this mess of characters - and it seems the writers had a similar issue with the now beloved character - but now that she's settled nicely into a level of craziness that only she could occupy, we can truly appreciate her own little slice of genius. Sure, we sometimes want to shake her and tell her that not everyone wants to talk about Baby Jesus or spend all day baking mini pies, but when she gets angry, she is glorious. It's a swift journey through her tiny stages of anger. First comes the passive aggressive condescention of her sugary sweet Glenda The Good Witch voice, and right behind that comes the BUSINESS voice. Because when Shirley gets mad, she means BUSINESS and it doesn't matter what she's saying, because you're sure as hell listening.
Pierce: General Intolerance
No one does despicable like Pierce Hawthorne. He's constantly calling Ay-bed an Ay-rab or referencing some sort of terrorist plot he must have a-brewing. For the longest time, he had an obsession with the fact that Shirley is black. And don't even get him started on anything that might slightly be related to the gay community. Pierce is terrible, he's sexist, he made (fat) Neil hate himself. Half of the time it's funny, and the other half of the time it's like sitting next to a sweet, extremely elderly lady on the train when she suddenly says something wildly prejudice as if it's totally normal: all the blood drains from your face, you feel cold inside, and the entire world feels like it's slipping away. On Community, this is followed with Annie or Shirley reprimanding Pierce, Britta scoffs, Abed says "not cool," and Jeff makes some self-righteous comment about Pierce competing in the olympics of racism and all is right in the world.
Annie: Maniacal Reactions
Of course, Annie is sweet and innocent, which becomes a bit of a conundrum when we see she lives in a stinkhole above a vibrator store called Dildopolous and went through Narcotics Anonymous for a while because she got addicted to Adderol in high school. The truth is, Annie is kind of nuts. She's gloriously crazy. And most of the time, she keeps it in check, but then there are those moments where she just can't hold off any longer and she explodes in a fit of squealing and writhing. And then there are those times when an indescribable squeal replaces any sort of linguistic response. It's nuts, it's Annie, and we love it.
Abed: Encyclopedic Knowledge of Pop Culture
Now I know, this one is just too easy, but come on. Look at the guy. His entire (fabricated) existence is devoted to Pop Culture. How can we not honor that? And technically, since his overzealous committment to the Batman persona in last week's "Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism" was so astute it convinced his landlord that he was the caped crusader, I'm pretty certain it counts as a super power.
S2: E6 I’m not even going to try to contain my excitement over this week’s episode of Community. It had everything I love: Halloween costumes, tacos, zombies, creepy music (ABBA), and Troy without a shirt. (Sorry dudes, we do spend a lot of these episodes talking about Annie’s boobs, so I figure it’s only fair that I get to lust after Donald Glover for a bit.) Oh, and did I mention it was narrated by George Takei? As in Sulu from the original Star Trek? Yeah, it was just that cool.
After a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-esque intro from George Takei, the scene opens on Greendale’s Halloween party. Pierce is dressed as the Shatner- variety James T. Kirk (maybe someone told him Takei would be narrating), Jeff is his handsome self as David Beckham (complete with $6,000 suit), and the dean is dressed as what I assume will this year’s most popular costume – Lady Gaga. After downing several “tacos” Jeff spills the beans (ha! Get it? Because they’re eating tacos? Like Mexican food? Okay, I’ll stop) and it turns out they’ve been eating military rations from an army surplus store. Yuck. Britta as a T-Rex/ Dragon-turtle points out that the dean’s endless loop of ABBA songs is occasionally interrupted by his personal voice memos (including one reminding him to check out Human Centipede.) Damn, he’s creepy. Shirley is once again in a “dangerously ambiguous” costume – Annie dressed as Little Red Riding hood hasn’t solved the mystery but she does warn them NOT to call Shirley Miss Piggy. (Of course, now that’s all they can see.) Troy and Abed have a joint costume from Alien, Troy as Ripley in a power loader and Abed as an alien (he really commits to the costume, it’s awesome), but when Troy fails to pick up girls in his yellow frame, he no longer wants to play Abed’s nerdy games. But the main problem is the dean’s tacos; Pierce and many others are starting to get ill after eating. Just when Annie’s friend the doctor (in a banana suit) is making a case for food poisoning, Pierce grabs Starburns and tried to eat his arm. Yep, definitely not food poisoning. Try zombies, glorious zombies.
Before everyone starts to notice that the school is being taken over by zombies (oh, it’s no big deal), Troy ditches his Alien-inspired costume for something a little more lady-friendly. He comes back from the bathroom wearing little more than a toilet seat cover with the word “Dracula” written on it, leaving Abed alone in his nerdiness. He’s a “sexy Dracula” – DUH. Meanwhile, the zombie virus is taking hold of the infected students and the dean elects to call the surplus store where he got the “taco meat” to complain. Apparently, it was not taco meat. Nope. It was some top secret toxic waste – how dumb is this guy? He’s patched in to an officer from the army who commands him to quarantine the zombies for 6 hours until the army can swoop in and fix everything. That’s one hell of a time window. Who do they think they are? The cable guy?
Meanwhile, shit’s starting to get crazy. Just as Annie suggests they evacuate calmly, all hell breaks loose, zombies attack, the dean locks everyone in the library, the study group fends off zombie attackers and barricades themselves in the study room as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” plays jauntily in the background. God, I love this show.
Before they finally seal off the room, Doctor Banana wants to double check that everyone managed to escape the attack without getting bitten. (And he totally has a bite on his ankle that he’s hiding. Bastard.) He also explains that the infected people will develop high fevers and that in a matter of hours, the zombified students’ brains will overheat and turn to mush. No longer the undead, they’ll just be plain ol’ dead. They figure out a plan: if they can get to the thermostat and turn up the AC, they can break the fever and kill the virus. But nope, too late. Doctor Banana’s speech goes all drunken undead dude and Britta’s not far behind. The remaining group tries to escape the newest zombies, but Annie gets taken. Chang and Shirley get separated from Jeff, Abed, and Troy and barricade themselves in the bathroom. As they hold the door shut, Chang notices that Shirley’s not Miss Piggy, she’s Glenda the Good Witch. In turn, Shirley notes that she loves Chang’s Peggy Fleming costume and he’s happy to hear that she’s not racist (because everyone else assumed he was an Asian figure skater like Michelle Kwan). BOOM. The unthinkable happens – a Shirley-Chang hook up. Give me a second while I pick my jaw up off of the ground.
Troy, Abed, and Jeff find themselves in the basement under siege from a crazy cat that’s inexplicably being launched (or flying on its own?) across the room. Once they get past the crazy cat, Troy and Abed notice a window for their escape. Unwilling to mess up his precious suit, Jeff insists they use the door. Dammit Jeff, have you never seen a zombie movie? Of course, he opens the door, zombies flood in overtaking him and stretching out his super swanky clothes as Troy and Abed run towards the window. With nothing to climb on, to reach the opening, Abed elects to hoist Troy up so he can make Abed proud and be the first black man to survive a zombie attack. (Abed would know, he is a film nerd after all.) Troy doesn’t want to leave his bestie, and as he’s about to escape yells back at Abed ,“I love you.” And as any movie nerd should, Abed responds like Han Solo did to Princess Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, saying “I know” as he’s overtaken by a pile of undead students. (Hold on while my nerdy side does a mini fist pump.)
Now Troy’s the only uninfected guy left. He returns to his power loader costume, bursting into the library and punching out zombies to reach the thermostat and save the day as ABBA's "Mamma Mia" plays. Gotta love that juxtaposition. As he trudges through the library, he takes out all the zombie versions of his friends until he reaches Abed. He hesitates, and in a final ironic blow his zombified best friend is the one who finally bites him. He manages to crawl to the thermostat and push the button (stopping for a second to take note of Jeff who’s still poking at his blackberry and “still cool as a zombie”) before finally taking full zombie form and joining the rest his groaning, grey friends. Damnit. It’s over, right? Everyone’s a zombie.
But no, as ABBA’s “Fernando” starts to swell, the AC starts to flow and the zombies start to sense a slow return to normalcy – Jeff goes from slapping at his phone to getting right back to sending texts and emails. Just then, the army arrives, ready to “dose these suckers.” Yeah, I don’t know what that means. The two army officers show up wearing black suits and sunglasses at night, but thank God that one of the underlings interrupts them before they can follow through on what was sure to be a Men In Black reference.
After they dosed the suckers, everyone wakes up in the library, bandaged and confused. No one remembers anything that happened, and the army officers tell everyone that the party was mass-roofied. (Chang is disappointed that he wasn’t the mastermind behind it all. He would. Creep.) George Takei closes it out with narration that has nothing to do with the episode, but might benefit you if your name is Kevin.
It’s hard to imagine that the tag could even come close to the Halloween episode that I can only describe as 22 minutes of pure zombie awesomeness, but Troy finding a voicemail that was left during the zombie attack after the army’s erased his memory. Watch and enjoy.