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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In our quest to bring you the best TV content, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist. This week, just in time for the Super Bowl, we're remembering our favorite TV "athletes" who have long since been forgotten. Because who wants to watch a bunch of dudes from that city where Full House took place and that other city where The Wire took place play ball when we could watch Rachel Green maybe score a touchdown? Behold, our favorite televised sporting matches of yore (or is it yesteryear?).
Aly Semigran: Super Bowl? Pssssh. The best televised football rivalry is the Geller Cup, introduced in the classic Friends Thanksgiving episode titled, fittingly, "The One With the Football." The competition pitted Geller against Geller and friend against friend, and the debate still rages on today amongst Friends purists whether or not Rachel was actually in the end zone when she spiked a victory touchdown.
Kate Ward: George Costanza hit a home run when he realized swapping the Yankees' polyester uniforms for cotton would help the players feel five degrees cooler than their competition. Less cool, however, were the players' waddle in the fabric after their uniforms went through a laundry cycle. Poor George — how many times must he cope with shrinkage?
Abbey Stone: My name is Abbey and I was a 7th Heaven watcher. Get all your laughter out of the way now. But is there a moment in all of TV sports more inspirational than when Mary scored the winning basket (in slow motion) in her first game back since having knee surgery? No, no there's not. And now Mary is Mrs. Timberlake, so take that all you 7th Heaven haters.
Michael Arbeiter: As a “valued” member of many a track team throughout my youth and young adulthood, I always found the idea of “the big race” to be particularly compelling. And when Seinfeld showcased Jerry’s ultimate succumbing to high school rival Duncan’s countless rematch challenges (Jerry had beaten Duncan years ago, in a feat that Duncan insists must have been aided by cheating), the thrills were launching at rocket speed. The pair even brought back their old coach, Mr. Bevilacqua, to officiate… as clearly, high school coaches have nothing better to do than settle battles of ego between former students.
Sydney Bucksbaum: All the basketball knowledge I have is from High School Musical. Thank you, Zac Efron, for all the helpful pointers on how to play the game. You've got to fake right, and break left. Watch out for the pick and keep an eye on defense! And remember, don't be afraid to shoot the outside, Jay.
Shaunna Murphy: This is the only sporting event that has ever mattered. The only thing that sucked was how the girls never won.
[PHOTO CREDIT: NBC]
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