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.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
The numbers are in and Something's Gotta Give gave the competition a run for its money this weekend as the Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton romantic comedy claimed the No. 1 spot at the box office with $17 million.* The film's box office victory makes it the ninth No. 1 opening for Sony Pictures this year--the most of any distributor in 2003.
Something's Gotta Give also hacked last week's box office champ The Last Samurai, which dropped to second place with $14 million, and the new comedies Stuck on You, which debuted in third place with $10 million, and Love Don't Cost a Thing, which kicked off in fourth place with $6.5 million.
Eddie Murphy's holiday fright flick The Haunted Mansion rounded out the Top Five with $6.3 million in its third week of release.
Although Something's Gotta Give didn't rake in as much as Nicholson's comedy Anger Management, which opened in April to the tune of $42.2 million, it debuted slightly stronger than the actor's 1997 romantic comedy As Good As It Gets, which took in $12.6 million in its first weekend.
Sony Pictures' head of distribution Jeff Blake told The Associated Press Sunday that although Something's Gotta Give is targeted at older adults, it scored well among younger crowds, with viewers under 30 accounting for a third of the audience.
"For the holidays, this is the perfect piece of entertainment, especially in a market that for the most part has had either children's films or darker-themed adult films out there," Blake said. "This is funny, well-written, and we think [it] works for all audiences."
THE TOP TEN
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give debuted at No. 1 with an ESTIMATED $17 million at 2,677 theaters. Its $6,350 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this week.
In the film, an older man dating a pretty twenty-something falls in love with her dynamic mother.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.
Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai, last week's box office topper, dropped to second place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $14 million (-42%) in 2,908 theaters (unchanged; $4,831 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $46.8 million.
Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated comedy Stuck on You opened in third place with an ESTIMATED $10 million at 3,003 theaters with a $3,330 per theater average.
In the film, conjoined twins discover how difficult it is when one wants to pursue his dream as an actor in Hollywood. But once they become celebrities, they realize it's time for an operation to separate them.
Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, it stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes and Cher.
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated teen comedy Love Don't Cost a Thing kicked off in fourth place with $6.5 million at 1,844 with a $3,544 per theater average.
In the film, a remake of the 1987 comedy Can't Buy Me Love, a geek pays the most popular girl in school to be his girlfriend so people will think he's popular.
Directed by Troy Beyer, it stars Nick Cannon, Christina Millian and Steve Harvey.
Buena Vista's PG rated horror comedy The Haunted Mansion dropped two notches to No. 5 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-33%) at 3,001 theaters (-121 theaters; $2,099 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.9 million.
Directed by Rob Minkoff, it stars Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason and Jennifer Tilly.
Miramax Films' R rated dark comedy Bad Santa held steady in sixth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $6.2 million (-12%) at 2,540 theaters (+449 theaters; $3,385 per theater). Its cume is approximately $35.9 million.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox and John Ritter.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
New Line Cinema's PG rated holiday comedy Elf fell three spots to seventh in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $6.2 million (-23%) at 2,876 theaters (-243 theaters; $2,156 per theater). Its cume is approximately $147.6 million.
Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated hip-hop drama Honey tumbled six rungs to eighth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-60%) in 1,972 theaters (+30 theaters; $2,585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $20 million.
Directed by Bille Woodruff, it stars Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer and Lil' Romeo.
Universal Pictures' PG rated live-action comedy Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, fell from its fifth place perch to ninth position in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-41%) at 2,955 theaters (-454 theaters, $1,420 per theater). Its cume is approximately $90.7 million.
Directed by Bo Welch, it stars Mike Myers, Dakota Fanning, Spencer Breslin, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin and Sean Hayes.
Warner Bros.' R rated horror thriller Gothika fell three notches to round out the Top 10 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-48%) at 1,806 theaters (-399 theaters; $1,514 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.9 million.
Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, it stars Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penelope Cruz and Bernard Hill.
Sony's PG-13 rated drama Big Fish debuted in six theaters with an ESTIMATED $215,000 with a $35,833 per theater average.
In the film, a son comes to understand his father through the older man's fantastic stories.
Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Lohman.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $83 million, down 7.08 percent from last weekend's $89.3 million take and also down 8.1 percent from last year's $90.4 million.
Last year, Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan debuted in first place with $18.7 million at 2,838 theaters ($6,593 per theater); Paramount's PG-13 rated sci-fi sequel Star Trek: Nemesis opened in second place with $18.5 million in 2,711 theaters ($6,829 per theater); and 20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated teen musical Drumline kicked off in third place with $12.6 million in 1,836 theaters ($6,865 per theater).