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.
Top Story: "Survivor" Finalists Get Engaged
The Sunday night two-hour season finale of CBS' Survivor All-Stars reeked of The Bachelor--with a little American Idol thrown in. After the final four contestants were whittled down to two and before host Jeff Probst announced the $1 million winner live from Madison Square Garden in New York, finalists "Boston Rob" Mariano and Amber Brkich got engaged. In what could easily go down as the cheesiest moment in reality TV history, Mariano pulled out an engagement ring and proposed to Brkich, who was sporting a chic "I (heart) Rob" T-shirt. "We didn't even care who was going to win," Brkich told The Associated Press today. "We knew we both had each other for the rest of our lives." And the jackpot probably helped sweeten the moment, too: Brkich beat Mariano by a 4-3 vote. But the show isn't over yet folks. The network announced it was calling on fans to vote one of the losing 17 contestants of Survivor All-Stars a second million-dollar prize, which will be handed out on a live telecast Thursday night.
Anti-Camcording Law Nabs First Pirate
A Los Angeles-area man was sent to jail for 42 days in the first sentencing under California's new anti-camcording law, which was enacted Jan. 1. Reuters reports Ruben Moreno, 34, was also given three years' probation and ordered to forfeit his camcorder during sentencing at Los Angeles Superior Court May 3. According to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Moreno was caught taping The Alamo at the Pacific Winnetka Theater in Los Angeles April 12 after a projectionist noticed the light from his video camera. The sighting was confirmed through night vision goggles.
Rapper 50 Cent in Scuffle
Police in Springfield, Mass., had to break up a shoving match early Saturday morning at the Hippodrome club after rapper 50 Cent and his entourage jumped from the stage during a surprise appearance and scuffled with the audience, the AP reports. According to the club's co-owner, 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, jumped off the stage about 10 minutes into his performance after someone in the crowd flung water at him. The rapper then got back on stage to finish his song before exiting the club with his entourage. Two men were charged with disturbing the peace. Police also were investigating whether a nearby shooting was related.
Elton John Adds 15 Dates to Vegas Show
"The Red Piano," singer Elton John's three-year gig at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is scoring sellouts since it began Feb. 13, leading organizers to add 15 dates to the 2004 run. John's Colosseum deal originally called for 75 shows over three years. Reuters reports the show has grossed $14.5 million from 19 sellouts that drew an audience of 75,276. "The Red Piano" resumes July 23 and ends Aug. 8, with the additional 15 dates running between Oct. 12 and 31. Tickets for the show are priced at $100, $175 and $250.
Actor and Comedian Alan King Dies
Actor and comedian Alan King died Sunday in New York at the age of 76, the AP reports. The Brooklyn-born standup comic was a popular guest on TV comedy and variety shows for decades, and often guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. King broke into show business while still in his teens, doing comedy in the Catskills, then moving on to nightclubs. His film career began in the 1950s with small parts and went on to star in Bye Bye Braverman, The Anderson Tapes, Just Tell Me What You Want, Author! Author!, I, the Jury, Lovesick and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He also penned a number of books and produced movies and stage plays.
Marie and Donny Osmond's Mother Dies
Marie and Donny Osmond's mother, Olive Osmond, died Sunday in Provo, Utah, of complications from a massive stroke she suffered more than two years ago. She was 79. Family spokesman Ron Clark told the AP family members were by her bedside. Olive and her husband George had nine children, including Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, who performed as the Osmond Brothers, producing 34 gold and platinum records in the '60s and '70s. Donny, Marie and Jimmy Osmond later joined them. Then, from 1976-79, Donny and Marie Osmond hosted the The Donny and Marie Show, produced in part by their older brothers. Olive Osmond is survived by her husband, nine children, 55 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Smokey Robinson Markets Soul Food
Fans of Motown legend Smokey Robinson will now be able to "Shop Around"--not for the single, but for gumbo. Reuters reports Smokey Robinson's Foods has introduced its first product, Soul Is in the Bowl Gumbo, to the Chicago market available there through Albertson's subsidiary, Jewel-Osco. Robinson's gumbo is located in the frozen food section and regularly priced at $2.89, with a portion of the company's profits used to further education for minority children. The gumbo hits Southern and Northern California in May with a national rollout planned before the end of the year.
Role Call: DreamWorks Snatches Rights to Boys Rebellion
After 60 Minutes aired a report last week on Michael D'Antonio's book The State Boys Rebellion, DreamWorks paid mid-six figures to secure the rights. The book follows Frederick Boyce and his friends, now in their 60s, who spent their childhoods in the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded in Massachusetts as part of a government program that locked poor or uneducated children into mental institutions from the early 1900s through the 1970s. The children were neglected, abused and used for scientific experiments as part of the eugenics movement that tried to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society in order to prevent them from reproducing.