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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Walt Disney Studios
The recent release of Lana Del Rey's delightfully creepy cover of "Once Upon A Dream" got me ruminating on hypothetical Disney covers. Of course, many exist already: Demi Lovato's "Let it Go," Christina Aguilera's "Reflection," and my personal favorite, Fiona Apple's "Sally's Song." But lucky for us, there are still plenty of Disney songs in need of high-profile covers. Here are a few to get you started:
"A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," as sung by Lorde
This old-school Disney tune (Cinderella, 1950) evokes the sound of retro crooners like Judy Garland and Cass Elliot, but who could take a fresh spin on it these days? Lorde. Her signature rasp would contrast nicely with the champagne-bubble optimism of the song.
"Feed the Birds," as sung by Regina Spektor
Come on, wouldn't it be cool? Spektor's voice is so mercurial; she seems to flit seamlessly between opposite sides of the emotional spectrum in an instant – at turns both melancholy and euphoric. Her ultra-expressive style and her clear-as-a-bell voice fit this song to a T.
"Gaston," as sung by Nathan Fillion
From his turn as Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, we know that no one plays a self-involved bravissimo-filled beefcake quite like Fillion – he'd make a perfect Gaston, and I'd pay hard cash to see him do it.
"I Won't Say I'm In Love," as sung by Florence Welch
Florence Welch may just be too cool for Disney. But, if she were to do a cover, I'd love to see her do some sort of love ballad. Her rock-tinged voice could make even the dorkiest Disney song sound cool, and I'd love to hear her croon out Hercules fan-favorite "I Won't Say I'm In Love." She's certainly got the attitude to play Meg!
What Disney covers do you want to see? Share in the comments!