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: Sony Eyes Sandler for High-Concept Script
Sony Pictures has paid a whopping $1.75 million for Click, a spec script by Bruce Almighty scribes Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, as a possible starring vehicle for Adam Sandler. According to Variety, the film is about an overworked advertising executive who neglects his family in favor of his career and whose life changes when he comes across a universal remote that allows him to rewind, pause and fast-forward his life. Veteran producer Neal Moritz, the man behind such actioners as 2 Fast 2 Furious and xXx, will produce through his Sony-based Original Film with Revolution Studios co-producing and co-financing the project. Click would reunite Koren with Sandler, who worked together on Saturday Night Live. Moritz, who hopes to begin production in 2004, told Variety, "I would love for Adam to do this."
Charleton Heston Gets Medal of Freedom
Academy Award winner Charlton Heston, best known for his roles in The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Planet of the Apes, was awarded the Medal of Freedom Wednesday by President Bush, Reuters reports. The 79-year-old actor and voice of the pro-gun National Rifle Association made public last year that he had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain ailment. Master chef Julia Child and the late Dave Thomas, Wendy's hamburger mogul and philanthropist, also received Medals of Freedom--the nation's highest civilian award.
Ice Cube Gets Apology
The Chicago Police Department has apologized for issuing a community alert last Sunday describing a man suspected in a series of sexual assaults as a dead ringer for hip-hop artist and actor Ice Cube. According to The Associated Press, a local Chicago TV station broadcast one of Ice Cube's videos when it reported the story Monday night. Police spokesman David Bayless said Tuesday, "We acknowledged the information should not have been on the alert. We took immediate corrective action. We apologize to Ice Cube for what was an honest mistake and came with no ill intent." The community alert was reissued without the Ice Cube reference.
McCartney Joins PETA's Efforts Against KFC
Paul McCartney wrote an open letter advertisement to KFC's Louisville-based parent company, Yum! Brands Inc., calling for an improvement in the treatment of 750 million chickens raised annually for KFC restaurants. The ad, the latest action by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to force KFC to implement new standards for the treatment of chickens after security cameras revealed workers torturing the animals, appears in a full-page advertisement in Thursday's edition of the Louisville The Courier-Journal. Jonathan Blum, senior vice president for public affairs for Yum! Brands, responsed: "While PETA would prefer a world of vegetarians, most people disagree, so we think PETA should follow one of Sir Paul's songs and just 'Let It Be.'"
FX's Nip/Tuck a Cut Above the Rest
FX's premiere of the plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck got a nice slice of the Nielsen pie Tuesday, beating MTV's The Real World and Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in the 10 p.m. time slot night to become the highest-rated new cable series premiere of the year with an impressive 3.7 million viewers. According to Reuters, Nip cut FX's recent losing streak on the original-series front after the half-hour comedy Lucky and late-night series The Orlando Jones Show both flopped. The premiere, however, failed to top the series debut of FX's cop show The Shield and the second-season premiere of USA Network's Monk.
Diana's Love Letters Read in TV Doc
Love letters sent by the late Princess Diana to her former lover James Hewitt will be read out in a British television documentary Thursday night, Reuters reports. In Confessions of a Cad, Hewitt's lawyer and friend Michael Coleman reads extracts from the love letters Diana sent Hewitt during their affair, which began in the late 1980s. "Boy oh boy, does the earth shake when I get a letter from my desert friend, screams of delight, tears, you name it. Demented female on the loose, that's for sure," she wrote in one letter while Hewitt was serving in the 1991 Gulf War. Diana is believed to have sent Hewitt more than 60 letters between 1989 and 1991.
Serena Williams Swings Into Acting
Tennis pro Serena Williams is set to play a reformed gang member on parole in an Oct. 1 episode of Showtime's Street Time, the AP reports. The show, starring Rob Morrow, begins its second season Aug. 6. "As a fan of 'Street Time,' I told myself that if given the opportunity, I'd love to be on the show," Williams said Wednesday. "I am taking this role very seriously, because I want to excel and because I have respect for the series."
Role Call: Downey and Ryder Join Woody Allen Pic, Madonna Rocks with Peet
Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder are in talks to join the cast of Woody Allen's next pic for Fox Searchlight. Like all Allen films, the title, script and plot are being kept under wraps ... Ethan Hawke will direct a big-screen adaptation of his best-selling novel The Hottest State for IFC Films. The story follows two young adults as they discover intense love and grapple to define their passion for one another. No cast is attached yet ... Maverick Films has optioned the romantic comedy script She Rocks from filmmaker Amie Steir as a starring vehicle for Amanda Peet with Madonna serving as the film's executive producer. The project is described as Working Girl set in the music industry and revolves around a female music journalist who writes a career-making story about a rock star.