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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Disney, Miramax Take Spat Outside
Miramax Films and parent company The Walt Disney Co. have made it clear they are looking to renegotiate their contract, The Associated Press reports. Miramax's current deal expires in 2009, but an option in the contract allows Disney to renegotiate the relationship in 2005. At issue, according to AP sources, is Disney's desire to pay Miramax founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, less money and to impose caps on exploding budgets at Miramax. Last week, Eisner said Disney has no plans to sell Miramax, but he added that the studio had been unprofitable in three of the past five years. AP reports this prompted a strong denial from Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik, who said the studio was making money, as evidenced by Disney paying a bonus to the Weinsteins that was predicated on Miramax turning a profit. "If Disney thinks Miramax is so unprofitable, Bob and Harvey would be happy to buy it back if Disney names the price," Hiltzik told AP.
Gibson Sues Over Passion Box Office Gross
Mel Gibson's company, Icon Distribution Inc., has sued movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group for more than $40 million, claiming Regal failed to pay Icon its fair share of box office receipts for The Passion of the Christ, Reuters reports. In the suit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Icon said its agreement with Regal called for the companies to share receipts on "studio terms," which Icon defined as 55 percent of gross ticket sales paid to it and 45 percent retained by Regal. Icon claims Regal has reneged on that deal and offered to pay Icon only 34 percent, instead, Reuters reports. The Passion has grossed nearly $370 million domestically.
Bootlegged Soul Plane Blamed for Poor Box Office
The critically panned comedy Soul Plane may have bombed at the box office but the film hit big on the black market. Variety reports that as early as April, illegal and very high quality DVD and VHS copies of the film were so widely available among street vendors that some involved with the film blame its poor box office performance on bootleggers. "We're the first movie that can demonstrate a direct relationship between digital piracy and box office sales," Plane's producer David Scott Rubin told Variety. "Even if the movie isn't any good, if a movie is out on the streets for two months with your core audience, the word of mouth works against you." The FBI is said to be investigating how Soul Plane was hijacked, though the agency, citing normal policy, would not confirm or deny a probe, Variety reports.
Date With Bridget Sequel Changed
Universal Pictures and Miramax Films, which co-financed the sequel Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, have changed the release date and distributor of the film. Universal will now distribute the film, in which Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth reprise their roles, and will open the film Nov. 19. Variety reports both studios attributed the distribution shift to the fact that Universal had more opportunities, while Miramax's slate got full suddenly with Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
FCC Settles With Clear Channel
The Federal Communications Commission has reached a $1.75 million settlement with Clear Channel Communications to resolve a number of indecency complaints against radio shock jock Howard Stern and other radio personalities, the AP reports. The agreement settles fines proposed by the agency against Clear Channel for sexually explicit remarks Stern made on New York City-based radio in an April 2003 broadcast. A source told the AP the deal also covers 10 open investigations and some 25 pending cases stemming from listener complaints lodged against shows on Clear Channel stations. Clear Channel has since removed Stern from the six of its 1,200-plus stations.
Role Call: Mortensen Gets Lesson on Violence, Vanilla Sky Sequel in Works, Final Destination 3 On the Way
Viggo Mortensen is in negotiations to star in New Line Cinema's A History of Violence for director David Cronenberg. The film, based on John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel of the same name, is about an ordinary family's life after the father receives unwanted national attention for a seemingly vigilante-style self-defense killing at his diner. Mortensen would play the father … Judy Greer and Paul Schneider have signed on for roles in Cameron Crowe's follow-up to 2001's Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown. The Paramount Pictures project already stars Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Biel … New Line Cinema has greenlighted Final Destination 3, reuniting the studio with franchise creators Glen Morgan and James Wong. Wong directed the original film, which he wrote with Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, in 2000. While the third installment is expected to continue in a similar vein as its two predecessors, Morgan and Wong have not yet revealed their take on this sequel.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.