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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Box office figures were Served this Super Bowl weekend.
The youthful hip-hop dance film You Got Served, starring the defunct boy band B2K, took the top spot with $16 million*, knocking last week's champ, the Ashton Kutcher thriller The Butterfly Effect, down to the third spot with $9.9 million.
"[You Got Served] is one of those movies that flies beneath the radar, then suddenly, it's at No. 1," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press. "It just shows when you go after that teen audience, it's an audience that definitely has power."
Second place belonged to the raucous romantic comedy Along Came Polly, which took in a decent $10 million, while the regal The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King came in fourth with $5.2 million.
Rounding out the top five was another newcomer, the SAT heist flick The Perfect Score with $5 million, while the other heist flick opening this week, The Big Bounce, failed to make it to the top 10, scraping by with a measly $3.3 million.
With the Academy Award nominations announced on Tues. Jan. 27, the box office also saw a few familiar faces return in re-release, including Best Picture nominees Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which earned $2.3 million in 1,118 theaters, and Lost in Translation, which grossed $2.1 million in 632 theaters. Both joined Mystic River, which expanded last week. The indie drama Monster, which stars Best Actress nominee Charlize Theron, also saw a 49 percent jump, with a healthy $3 million in 668 theaters.
The overall Super Bowl weekend figures of $75.2 million, were slightly down, 5.93 percent, from the same Super Bowl weekend last year (which came a week earlier), at $79.9 million.
THE TOP TEN
Screen Gems' PG-13 rated hip-hoppin' You Got Served opened in the No. 1 slot with an ESTIMATED $16 million, which comes somewhat as a surprise since it only opened in 1,933 theaters. Still, its $8,277 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this week.
The former boy band B2K hits the big screen as an urban dance crew competing for a big cash prize.
Directed by Chris Stokes, it stars Marques Houston, Omarion, Jarell "J-Booq" Houston and Dreux "Lil Fizz" Frederic.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Along Came Polly stayed in second place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $10 million (-38%) in 3,052 theaters (+57 theaters; $3,300 per theater). Its cume is approximately $66.7 million.
Directed by John Hamburg, it stars Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Debra Messing.
Last week's champ, New Line Cinema's R rated supernatural drama The Butterfly Effect, dropped to third place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $9.9 million (-42%) in 2,605 theaters (unchanged; $3,820 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.4 million.
Directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, it stars Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Elden Henson and Ethan Suplee.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King actually moved up a spot to fourth in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-22%) at 2,556 theaters (-302 theaters; $2,338 per theater). Its cume is approximately $345.2 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.
Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated dramedy The Perfect Score opened in fifth place, scoring $5 million in 2,208 theaters with a $2,264 per theater average.
A group of high school seniors conspire to steal the answers to the SAT test.
Directed by Brian Robbins, it stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Erika Christensen, Bryan Greenberg and Leonardo Nam.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Sony's PG-13 rated drama Big Fish dropped two notches to fourth place in its eighth week with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-35%) in 2,280 theaters (-158 theaters; $2,018 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.3 million.
Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Lohman.
Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain held on to seventh place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-9%) at 2,500 theaters (-302; $1,813 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $78.8 million.
Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.
Dropping considerably, DreamWorks' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! came in at No. 8 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-39%) in 2,808 theaters (+97; $1,603 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.4 million.
Directed by Robert Luketic, it stars Kate Bosworth, Josh Duhamel and Topher Grace.
Warner Bros.' dramatic R rated Mystic River moved up a spot to ninth place since expanding to more theaters last week with an ESTIMATED $4.4 million (+31%) at 1,370 theaters (+43 theaters; $3,215 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.8 million.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney and Marcia Gay Harden.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen rounded out the top 10 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-36%) in 2,396 theaters (-416 theaters; $1,711 per theater). Its cume is approximately $127.8 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling.
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated Hawaiian heist caper The Big Bounce didn't have much spring in its step in its opening weekend, taking in an ESTIMATED $3.3 million in 2,304 theaters with a $1,439 per theater average.
Directed by George Armitage, it stars Owen Wilson, Charlie Sheen, Morgan Freeman, Sara Foster and Gary Sinise.
This week, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $75.2 million, down 8.75 percent from last week's $82.4 million, as well as down 19.65 percent from last year's $93.6 million.
Last year, Buena Vista's PG-13 rated The Recruit debuted at the No. 1 spot with $16.3 million at 2,376 theaters with a $6,861 per theater average; New Line Cinema's R rated horror sequel Final Destination 2 opened in second with $16 million in 2,834 theaters with a $5,652 per theater average; and DreamWorks' PG-13 rated actioner Biker Boyz premiered in third with $10 million in 1,766 theaters with a $5,723 per theater average.
High school senior Kyle (Chris Evans) sees his dreams of becoming an architect crushed when he doesn't earn a high enough score on the SAT exam to get him into an Ivy League school. He learns he isn't the only one thwarted by the "Suck Ass Test " as it's labeled in the film: Kyle's best friend Matty (Bryan Greenberg) can't get into his girlfriend's college; overachiever Anna (Erika Christensen) froze when she took the test her parents expected her to ace; and star basketball player Desmond (Darius Miles) is feeling the pressure to get a good score so he can play ball for a good school. Since they all need an extra boost Kyle comes up with a plan to steal the answers from the local testing headquarters before they have to retest enlisting the help of edgy anti-establishment Francesca (Scarlett Johansson) whose father owns the building and Ray (Leonardo Nam) a stoner who overhears the plan and wants in. As the six execute the heist of their lifetime they discover a little something extra about themselves along the way.
The Perfect Score players are all fairly likeable in their parts including Evans (Not Another Teen Movie) Greenberg (WB's One Tree Hill) and Miles a real-life pro basketball player who makes his big-screen debut. Christensen who was so good in Traffic as Michael Douglas' drug-addicted daughter comes off the worst as the uptight Anna who's just yearning to break free. Ho-hum. But among the lesser roles are a few standouts. Johansson--recently nominated for two Golden Globes for her tremendous performances in Lost in Translation and Girl With a Pearl Earring--makes the absolute most of her character delivering Francesca's sardonic zingers with ease ("Gee Dawson I don't know if you and Pacey can pull it off!") and blowing fresh air into the often stale plot. Along with Johansson newcomer Nam is also refreshing putting a unique twist on the classic pothead character. He utilizes the usual stoner attributes--laziness laughter binge eating--but under the seemingly dim exterior Ray's actually more on the ball than the rest spouting prophetic non-sequiturs that somehow make sense.
Standardized testing has become an integral part of the American education system as well as a very large and profitable business. Apparently of the 2.8 million kids who graduated from high school in 2002 1.3 million took the SAT--and poured an estimated $250 million into test-prep courses. Yet the SAT has been a topic of debate for many years because it's allegedly biased against certain races ethnicities and genders. In The Perfect Score director Brian Robbins (Varsity Blues) accurately taps into every high school student's inherent fear of the dreaded standardized test making the point that the SAT really isn't very fair especially the score resulting from the four-hour marathon is weighed against the accomplishments of four years of high school. But how do you create a compelling narrative around this concept? The Perfect Score tries its best setting up relationships and reasons for the main characters to do what they do but ultimately it doesn't fill in all the bubbles. The setup takes a long time and the heist even longer and through it all the kids mostly stand around and talk about their complicated lives. In fact Francesca jokes at one point that they should all get real and dish about their feelings à la The Breakfast Club--which is indeed what they end up doing.