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.
On May 8, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will begin a yearlong celebration in honor of its 75th anniversary. The festivities will kick off with a party at La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills and continue through next year, ending with the 75th annual Academy Awards on March 23, 2003, at the Kodak Theater. According to Variety, Academy President Frank Pierson said he will outline plans for the festivities during the inaugural celebration, adding that "there might be a surprise or two during the evening."
The sultry Denise Richards, who recently became engaged to Charlie Sheen, is apparently quite germ phobic. According to PageSix.com, Richards told The London Mirror: "I like everything clean. I carry around hand sanitizer and wash with it after I've shaken hands." The actress went on to say she uses an antibacterial ointment that she puts in her nose on planes. And she's going to marry whom, again?
Julia Stiles is partnering up in a new film production company, Variety reports. Stiles, who starred in the box office hit Save the Last Dance and the teen drama O, will join forces with O producer Eric Gitter and home video distributor Steve Scavelli to run the independently financed firm Smithy's Films. The company, which already has two projects in the works, will be looking for productions with budgets of about $8 million to $10 million.
In the Biz
Film critic Roger Ebert will launch the fourth annual Overlooked Film Festival in his hometown of Urbana-Champaign, Ill., on April 24. The festival will screen 14 films, starting with George C. Scott's 1970 war drama Patton. Ebert says major Hollywood studios are choosing safe pictures that aren't challenging moviegoers rather than taking chances on independent and foreign films, The Associated Press reports.
Pixar Animation and Disney revealed their upcoming slate Sunday, and it includes fish, cars and suburban superheroes. According to the AP, Pixar and Disney's next project will be an underwater adventure entitled Finding Nemo, a story about father and son fish that become separated in the Great Barrier Reef. The film will feature the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe and Geoffrey Rush and is slated for release in summer 2003. Also in the works: The Incredibles in 2004 and Cars in 2005. Disney/Pixar's 2001 feature Monsters, Inc. recently crossed $500 million at box office, making it the second biggest animated film of all time behind only Disney's The Lion King
Producers Robert Michael Geisler and John Roberdeau have purchased the film rights to Sen. John McCain's best-selling memoir Faith of My Fathers and are planning a feature film. While McCain has no contractual control over the film's content, Roberdeau, who with Geisler produced the 1998 World War II drama The Thin Red Line, said he'd welcome his input.
Looks like Dylan McDermott will be keeping busy during the summer hiatus of his successful series The Practice. Variety reported Sunday that McDermott will be playing nightclub impresario Peter Gatien in Party Monster, the true story of party promoter and convicted killer Michael Alig. McDermott will join Macaulay Culkin--who will play Alig--Seth Green, Marilyn Manson, Chloe Sevigny and Natasha Lyonne. Filming is set to begin May 13 in New York.
The syndicated talk show Jenny Jones has been saved from the proverbial axing block. Although the show has spent more than 10 years on the air, the top two markets New York and Los Angeles, Fox-owned WWOR and KCOP, had decided not to renew the show, casting a shadow on the show's fate. But Jenny Jones was rescued after Tribune Broadcasting agreed to carry the show on all of its 23 stations.
American film cable network AMC is developing a reality series called Movie Trailer about towns that serve as movie locations, Variety reports. If the pilot goes to series, Mystery Science Theater 3000 veteran Mike Nelson will host the show and travel around the country by trailer, visiting almost-famous locations and asking locals to share stories about their experiences.
Sylvester Stallone will claim the title of action star of the millennium at the Video Software Dealers Assn. Convention in Las Vegas in July, Variety reports. The award coincides with the 20th anniversary of First Blood's theatrical release and comes on the heels of the release of the special-edition DVD The Rambo Trilogy by Artisan Home Entertainment on May 28.
Shaolin Soccer won seven awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards on Sunday, including best film, director, young director, actor, supporting actor, sound design and visual effects. The comedy centers around a down-and-out alum of the Shaolin school of martial arts who gets some of his old Shaolin pals--saffron robes and all--to apply their high kicks and superhuman techniques to the game of soccer. The film will be released in the United States early next year.
Emmy Award-winning playwright Reginald Rose died Friday at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Conn. He was 81. Rose, who wrote and co-produced the film Twelve Angry Men and penned The Wild Geese and Whose Life Is It Anyway?, is survived by his wife and six children from two marriages.