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.
Based on the iconic 1960s television series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry the new 2008 big-screen incarnation of the show smartly goes its own way faithful in spirit but charting a new course for Maxwell Smart and company. With Steve Carell in the lead this Max is a likeable reliable paper-pushing analyst for spy agency CONTROL who dreams of one day of becoming a top agent out in the field himself. When CONTROL headquarters is attacked and nearly all the other agents identities are compromised he gets his chance. The Chief (Alan Arkin) has no choice but to bench his number one Agent 23 (Dwayne Johnson) in favor of Max now Agent 86. Max teams up with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway)--a far more competent and experienced agent--in order to thwart the terrorist plans of KAOS lead by Siegfried (Terence Stamp) and his right-hand man Shtarker (Ken Davitian). This Get Smart is a full-out action-comedy with the emphasis on action. The actors make all the derring-do and wild on-screen antics totally believable.
There is no question that Don Adams and Maxwell Smart are interchangeable. It’s almost impossible to imagine another actor in the role which is why Steve Carell has made all the right choices choosing to take his Max in a different direction. This is no imitation at all but a fully fleshed out bumbling guy with dreams of his own. Carell is very funny trying to deal with gadgets out of his er control--using code language getting his signals mixed up and trying to be a decent partner for the much smarter 99. Hathaway gets to act tough for the first time in her career and makes this 99 a bright woman who is obviously light years ahead of all her male colleagues. Both stars skillfully handle the considerable physical humor required here. After scoring in his surprise family hit The Game Plan Dwayne Johnson continues to show his comic timing as the superstar agent who is grounded against his will. Stamp and Borat’s sidekick Davitian are amusing caricatures but stuck with rather one-dimensional over-the-top villain roles. Arkin is perfectly cast as the beleaguered Chief while James Caan as the U.S. President has little to do but does it well. Bill Murray’s cameo in a tree trunk just lays there. Director Peter Segal’s experience working with comedians like Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy clearly pays off here as he guides Steve Carell to one of his best screen performances against daunting odds. People always have built-in expectations for pre-sold properties like a Get Smart but Segal wisely uses the source material to make it work for two kinds of audiences: those who loved the TV series and those who have never heard of it. Key to the success of this adaptation is taking the characters and placing them in big action set pieces. What was an amusing weekly sitcom is now suddenly competing favorably with summer blockbusters delivering stunt-filled sequence after stunt-filled sequence. In fact there is almost too much action but fortunately Carell and company know how to bring it down to earth at just the right moments. The screenplay by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember catches the flavor of the old TV series retaining much of what we loved--including Smart’s famous catch-phrases (“Missed it by THAT much!)--but craftily updating it for today’s more sophisticated movie-goers. They got the blessing of the show’s famous creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry who served as consultants. That can only be a good thing.
According to studio sources, Get Smart (Warner Bros) has the early edge on The Love Guru (Paramount) in industry tracking in next Friday's battle of big studio comedies. It has been 40 years since the television debut of Don Adams and his “cone of silence” on NBC, but Get Smart, created by comedy legends Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, seems to be getting some traction with a whole new generation.
Peter Segal (The Longest Yard, 50 First Dates) has helmed the adaptation of the late '60s TV classic with Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, and, despite trailing The Love Guru in Un-Aided Awareness four percent to three percent and Total Awareness 80 percent-78 percent, Get Smart holds a decisive advantage in the Definite Interest and First Choice columns.
Get Smart checks in with 36 percent Definite Interest while the Mike Myers created Guru is softer at 27 percent, although a healthy chunk of its appeal is with the 25+ crowd. The 2 movies are basically even in Definite Interest among under 25’s, but Males 25+ lean toward Get Smart 31 percent to 18 percent and Females 25+ choose Carell and company 36 percent to 15 percent, indicating some nostalgia for familiar characters.
My sources report that at the moment the Warner Bros comedy has a seven percent First Choice compared to three percent for The Love Guru, so Get Smart looks like the best bet for next weekend. There are still plenty of ad dollars to be spent, and this week alone, Justin Timberlake will hit The Tonight Show Tuesday, Mike Myers will appear with Leno Thursday and Ben Kingsley is on Letterman Thursday as well. But, as of today, I am predicting that Get Smart will get to $30-$35M while The Love Guru seems more like $25M-$30M.
Don Adams, star of the 1960s TV spy spoof Get Smart, died of a lung infection
Sept. 25. He was 82.
Adams, who provided the cartoon voices of the leading characters on Tennessee
Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget, had been in ill health for a year, since breaking
At the height of the James Bond craze in 1965, Adams played Agent 86 Maxwell
Smart in the comedy Get Smart, which was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry.
The show led to him winning three Emmy Awards as comedy actor in a series.
Born of Hungarian Jewish extraction in New York City as Donald James Yarmy,
he worked as a drill instructor in the Marines. He became sick overseas while
serving in Guadalcanal and had returned to the US.
Adams began doing standup in New York nightclubs after World War II, trying
out material at night while working as a commercial artist by day. In all,
Adams had three wives, and three divorces. His last marriage, to Judy Luciano,
ended in 1977, after seven years. He had seven children.
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Dodgeball is the classic big guy vs. little guy
can-do tale featuring your least favorite P.E. activity. Peter La Fleur
(Vince Vaughn) is the irresponsible manager of Average Joe Gymnasium a
low-end workout center that is losing business to Globo Gym America Corp.
run by former fatty food fetishist White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Peter
discovers that he has 30 days to come up with $50 000 of payments or else he
will lose his gym to Goodman. With the help of the bank's lawyer Kate Veatch
(Christine Taylor) and a ragtag team of gym regulars Peter plans on
winning the Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open and its first place
prize money. Yes folks all of your favorite sports clichés are here: the
salty experienced coach (Rip Torn) with his inspirational
non-sequiturs the nerd with a girl to impress a love triangle between the two
rivals and of course pirates. What? You were expecting a high concept and clever plot twists perhaps? C'mon.
If you want character development go see the folks at Merchant-Ivory. This
is irreverent comedy folks. And truth be told it's nothing we haven't seen
before. Vince Vaughn hones his too-cool-for-school good-guy persona against
Ben Stiller's lycra-covered over-the-top overachiever with a '70s porn
moustache. Stiller's performance is colored with shades of the dim-witted
Zoolander and the granny-thrashing nurse from Happy Gilmore but it
works. The two actors play off of each other and their co-stars quite well.
(Stiller's codpiece alone deserves its own screen credit.) But like a good drummer carries a band the movie's costars are what keeps the audience's attention. And as always Rip Torn does crazy
like no one else as dodgeball manager Patches O'Houlihan. He
chews the scenery spouting nuggets of wisdom such as "If you can dodge a
wrench you can dodge a ball" before heaving a tool at one poor kid. As for the team of Average Joes Stephen Root Justin Long and Joel Moore keep the gags rolling as do the actors who make cameo appearances. This laugher has more guest stars than a
two-hour Love Boat special. With a list that includes David
Hasselhoff Chuck Norris Jason Bateman Hank Azaria I was almost expecting
Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise to show up in a red Ferrari. The
highlights? Well Gary Cole shines in his bow to the great Vin Scully but
nothing could beat Lance Armstrong who laid down the best guilt trip I've
seen since I moved to the dorms.
This is Rawson Marshall Thurber's first time out playing with the big boys.
Quite a burden for a Tinseltown newbie but Thurber pulls it off agreeably.
All of your favorite sports movies will be mocked and you will enjoy it.
Thurber uses everything he can to get a laugh. Whether he's clowning Tony
Robbins parodying '50s instructional videos or using pizza in a perverse
and unholy manner Thurber keeps his audiences attention with enough
breakneck shtick to make Mel Brooks proud. But most importantly he never
forgets the fundamental rule to slapstick comedy: hitting people with stuff
is very very funny especially if it's in the nether regions or some area
of the human body that could potentially hurt or bleed a whole lot.