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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This past weekend, guilt overtook me and I agreed to one of my bimonthly meetups with the gang from college. People whose post-grad lives have taken them to law school, jobs in finance, and existences sans Saturday Night Live. Something I managed to avoid during our four years at school together was that one of my old housemates has never watched an episode of NBC's immortal variety show — a fact I find befuddling. In a spring of passion, I began declaring all the great things that SNL has given to the world, topping my list with two of the funniest and most important names in contemporary comedy: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who have just been announced as the joint hosts of the upcoming 70th Golden Globes. Once their names came into the mix, that's when the conversation became volatile.
Another friend of mine took issue with my highlighting of these two women in particular. "Those are your top two?" he asked. "What about Dan Aykroyd? Chevy Chase? Rodney Dangerfield?" Yes, he said Rodney Dangerfield. And while I have no deficit of appreciation for the contributions that Aykroyd, Chase, Jim Belushi (whom my friend insisted he meant when he said Rodney Dangerfield) have made to comedy, I will not let their seniority sway me: the comic team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler might very well be the best thing to come out of Saturday Night Live. Ever.
Fey and Poehler, SNL colleagues from the time the latter came on board the cast in 2001, began to showcase the bounties of their onscreen camaraderie when Poehler joined Fey as cohost of the show's Weekend Update segments in '04.
In Fey's 2011 memoir Bossypants, she illustrates her appreciation of Poehler as a voice for a progression of female comedy, and simply an innately funny individual:"Amy was in the middle of some ... nonsense ... and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can't remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and 'unladylike.' Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, 'Stop that! It's not cute! I don't like it.'
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second and wheeled around on him. 'I don't f***ing care if you like it.' Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not f***ing care if you like it. I was so happy. Weirdly, I remember thinking, 'My friend is here! My friend is here!' Even though things had been going great for me at the show, with Amy there, I felt less alone."The two would continue their Weekend Update partnership until 2006, when Fey left SNL to create and star in 30 Rock, but the camaraderie maintained. Fey's and Poehler's mastery of the small screen eventually earned them a place in theaters: Saturday Night Live writer Michael McCullers created the feature film Baby Mama as a vehicle for their dynamic comic chemistry, casting Fey as a straight-laced aspiring mother and Poehler as her white trash surrogate.
In addition to the movie itself, Fey and Poehler actually collaborated on several exemplary marketing campaigns which, if all strung together and projected in theaters, could stand as a perfectly sufficient Oscar-worthy comedy. Below is a featurette from the Moviefone series "Unscripted":
And a featurette from the Cinemax series "60 Seconds":
Baby Mama was highly effective in launching the magic that came organically when Fey and Poehler were placed next to one another and asked to say things. The pair's award presentation at the 60th Primetime Emmy ceremony later in 2008 is just another example of this very magic:
And finally, the most memorable event of Fey's and Poehler's 2008: the variety show's former head writer would return to her old stomping grounds, taking a position beside her friend in the highly influential election-themed send up of Hillary Clinton and (to a much greater extent) Sarah Palin.
Although the years to follow offered the world fewer collaborations between Fey and Poehler, their friendship remained perfectly, vividly intact. As Fey once joked in a 2011 NBC ad, "Amy Poehler and I have been friends for so long, we’re like Oprah and Gale. Only we’re not denying anything."
Earlier this year, Poehler took a brief guest cameo on 30 Rock, playing a high school-aged version of Fey's character Liz Lemon.
But we're still waiting for Fey to make it over to Parks and Recreation. Maybe as an old friend of Leslie Knope's who moved out of Pawnee to explore the world? A rival city councilwoman who makes trouble for the newcomer? Ron Swanson's terrifying younger sister? We'd be game for anything.
And we're game for the upcoming Golden Globes, fully optimistic about anything these two have in store for us. And if you're still not 100% won over by the prospect of Fey and Poehler at the head of the awards ceremony, here's this:
Bam. Lemon out.
[Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage]
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Baby Mama delivers the laughs non-stop. The story focuses on 37-year-old single business executive Kate Holbrook (Tina Fey) who suddenly finds herself with strong maternal yearnings. But she is told she has only a million in one chance to conceive disheartening news that sends her straight to a surrogacy agency whose pretentious owner (Sigourney Weaver) hooks her up with Angie (Amy Poehler) a low-rent working girl with a loser husband (Dax Shepard) who has decided she should become a surrogate as part of a get rich quick scheme. When Kate learns the Angie is indeed pregnant she starts preparing for the blessed arrival. But much to her chagrin what she doesn’t is expect is for Angie to land on her doorstep saying she has nowhere else to go. This sets up a female version of The Odd Couple as Angie’s trailer trash lifestyle clashes repeatedly with Kate’s ordered existence. Despite the differences the unlikely pair learn to accept each other and strike up a tentative friendship all in the name of baby-to-be. Considering the fact that Fey and Poehler worked together on Saturday Night Live and developed unique comic timing as anchors of “Weekend Update ” the chemistry they exhibit here in their first on-screen teaming should not come as a surprise. They are absolutely hilarious together as the screen’s latest--and greatest--Odd Couple (OK next to the originals Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon). Fey in particular has a nice Mary Tyler Moore quality to her grounding her comedy in reality and creating an extremely likeable presence either on the big screen or small as she proves weekly in 30 Rock. Surrounding the two leads is a swell cast of comic vets led by Weaver a riot as the 50-something baby-obsessed surrogate agency head who likes to remind her clients that she is still fertile. Offering nifty support on the male side are Greg Kinnear as a nice lawyer-turned-juice bar owner Kate develops an attraction to; Romany Malco as the apartment doorman who likes to commiserate with the tenants; and Shepard as Poehler’s n’er do well common law husband. Steve Martin also shows up for an amusing turn as Kate’s boss--a silver hair pony tailed new age owner of a chain of organic food markets. For what is essentially a chick flick it’s a bit surprising to learn it was written and directed by a man Michael McCullers who acquits himself nicely in his feature debut behind the camera. Some of that may be due to the fact he too is a SNL writing alum and speaks the same kind of improvisational language as his stars. As co-screenwriter of the Austin Powers films with another SNL grad Mike Myers McCullers clearly knows a thing or two about screen comedy. His experience shows in his effective and easy-going work on Baby Mama which despite constant contemporary references feels in some way like a throwback to the more genteel movie comedies of the ‘50s and ’60--right down to the peppy musical score and bright technicolored look of the film. Key for making his vision work is in casting. When you’ve got pros like these working for you what could possibly go wrong?
For a few years in the '60s and '70s producer Gerry Anderson made "supermarionation" all the rage in the world of British children's television. His stop-motion puppets starred in a number of sci-fi adventure series most memorably Thunderbirds which followed the exploits of International Rescue -- a team comprised of ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy and his sons. Based out of their secret fortress on Treasure Island the Tracys (aided by lovely secret agent Lady Penelope) used their amazing rocket-powered vehicles to prevent disasters and save lives around the world. Now 40 years after Thunderbirds' TV debut Star Trek vet Jonathan Frakes has brought Anderson's characters to life on the big screen. Front and center is youngest son Alan Tracy (Brady Corbet) who dreams of the day he too can pilot one of his family's fab ships and lead missions. But first he has to prove himself to his father Jeff (Bill Paxton). That opportunity comes sooner than either expects when mysterious villain The Hood (Ben Kingsley) strands Jeff and the older Tracy boys in space and attacks Treasure Island. With only his friends Tintin (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) and Fermat (Soren Fulton) to help him Alan has to grow up quickly if he wants to save his family ... and the world!
It would be easy to mock several of the performances in Thunderbirds-- to chide Paxton for his earnest seriousness as Tracy patriarch Jeff to dismiss Corbet's angst-tinged eagerness as Alan to roll your eyes at Kingsley's over-the-top mystical fierceness as The Hood and to wince at Fulton and Anthony Edwards' nerdy stuttering as science whizzes Fermat and his dad Brains. But actors are only as good as their script and the one Frakes has given his cast (courtesy of screenwriters William Osborne and Michael McCullers) is weak and clichéd at best filled with after-school-special-worthy lessons for Alan to learn. "You can't save everyone " Jeff tells his son somberly and even Tintin has a moral for her crush when he's feeling selfish and indulging in self-pity: "This is hard on all of us Alan." Talk about insight! What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the actors are capable of much more even the kids: Both Corbet and Hudgens did well with supporting roles in Thirteen. Thunderbirds' only real bright spot is Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope. A cross between Reese Witherspoon's Elle in Legally Blonde and Jennifer Garner's Sydney on Alias Myles' Lady P doesn't let her pink couture wardrobe prevent her from coolly kicking ass when the situation demands it. Attended by her droll driver/man-of-all-trades Parker (Ron Cook) Lady Penelope is a fresh feisty heroine with all of the film's best lines -- and the coolest car to boot.
Frakes cut his directorial teeth on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and his first feature film was Star Trek: First Contact so he would seem like a natural choice to bring a cult sci-fi TV show to the big screen. Unfortunately while he does an admirable job re-creating (and improving on) the original Thunderbirds' mod sets cool ships and special effects (which are fine if a bit more TV-sized than summer blockbustery) Frakes can't seem to decide who his audience is. If he was aiming at grown-ups who remember the show fondly from their own childhood he should have embraced the source material's campiness (à la Starsky and Hutch) rather than restricting it to the Tracys' plastic Barbie-like furniture and Lady P's bouffant hairdo. If on the other hand Frakes was hoping to entertain today's kids he should have really reinvented the show for a 21st-century world (à la Stephen Hopkins'1998 Lost in Space) rather than clinging to the '60s references As it is he's stuck somewhere in the middle leaving adults bored during the kids-on-an-adventure bits and children mystified by the handful of jokes aimed at their parents.
Beyonce Knowles, the main voice behind pop/ R&B trio Destiny's Child, is in advanced negotiations to make her feature film debut as the female lead in the upcoming Austin Powers 3, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
This will be the second time that Knowles gives it a shot as an actress. She made her acting debut this year in the role of the MTV telefilm Carmen: A Hip Hopera.
Austin Powers 3 was written by Mike Myers and Michael McCullers and continues the adventures of superspy Austin Powers, his nemesis, Dr. Evil, and the villainous Fat Bastard, all played by Myers.
Last week, actor Michael Caine signed on to star as Austin Powers' father.
Although rumor has it that Destiny's Child will break up so that each member can pursue solo careers, their third album, Survivor, has sold more than 3 million units since its May release.
Last year the trio won a Grammy for R&B performance by duo or group for their hit "Say My Name."
Dieter is not amused. Mike Myers has walked on the long-planned "Sprockets" movie (name of "Dieter," after the title character), short-circuiting a film that was to bring him his first $20 million paycheck.
And Universal Pictures apparently isn't amused, either -- it has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the comic actor.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Los Angeles. It seeks to bar Myers from working on other movies (or TV shows) until it gets the blasted "Dieter" movie out of him. It also wants the $3.8 million it says it's out in pre-production costs.
Right now, Myers is standing firm.
"I cannot in good conscience accept $20 million and cheat moviegoers who pay their hard-earned money to see my work by making a movie with an unacceptable script," Myers said in a statement that neatly ignores how unfunny "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" really was.
The really, really weird thing about the Myers dispute, however, is the fact that the "unacceptable" script was written by, um, Mike Myers (along with scribes Michael McCullers and Jack Handey).
Universal says Myers told the studio in March that he was set with his script and ready to make the movie. But on May 30, he bailed, saying the project wasn't working.
In between March and May, Universal got busy assembling Team "Dieter." Production designer Bo Welch was signed to direct; Jack Black ("High Fidelity"), Will Ferrell ("Saturday Night Live") and David Hasselhoff were inked to costar.
Their mission: To back up Myers as the turtleneck-wearin' German talk-show host character he introduced back on "Saturday Night Live."
The premise of the movie: Bad people kidnap Dieter's prized monkey; Dieter seeks to defeat bad people and be reunited with prized monkey.
On second thought, maybe "unacceptable" was too mild a term.
Rumors no more ... "The Mask of Zorro" star Antonio Banderas is definitely the odds-on finalist to don the disguise in a new film version of "The Phantom of the Opera" ... and, yes, Mike Myers will earn his first $20 million paycheck for Universal/Imagine's "Sprocket," based on the German movie critic and talk-show host character Dieter from the old "Saturday Night Live" sketches.
Both names had been attached to the projects, but their involvement is now close to a done deal. Reuters reports that "Phantom" director Shekhar Kapur is currently on the prowl to find a "stunning girl" to play opposite Banderas. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the "Sprockets" script by Myers and Michael McCullers begins shooting this summer.
No start date has been set for "Phantom," and a director has yet to be named for "Sprockets." Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce the latter, which is set for release in early 2001.
THE INCREDIBLE 'SHRINKING' EDDIE: "Dr. Doolittle." "The Nutty Professor." And now "The Incredible Shrinking Man." Eddie Murphy is quickly becoming Hollywood's go-to guy when it comes to remaking family-friendly fare. (And to think he shot to fame as a potty mouth in "48 Hours" and "Beverly Hills Cop")
Universal/Imagine's liked his '90s makeover in "Life," "Bowfinger" and the upcoming sequel "Nutty 2: The Klumps." They'll hope to continue the streak with the new version of "Shrinking." Murphy's committed to the project, in which he'll play a guy who shrinks after being exposed to a weird mist.
The project's set to begin after the comedian finishes Castle Rock's "Pluto Nash," which starts shooting next month.
BLANCHETT 'LIVES' FOR ACTION-THRILLER: Maybe it just wasn't the right FBI agent role (or maybe it was the whole cannibal thing) ... whatever the reasons, actress Cate Blanchett is in negotiations to play a character that sounds awfully familiar. In director Tony Scott's "Taking Lives," set to start shooting this summer, she's a female FBI profiler tracking down a serial killer who assumes the identities of his victims.
That assignment comes after the Oscar nominee passed on picking up where Jodie Foster left off in the upcoming "Hannibal," the sequel to "The Silence of the Lambs."
Blanchett's not the only A-lister who expressed interest in the "Lives" script, written by Jon Bokenkamp and based on a book by Brit Michael Pye. Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow is also a potential lead.