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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Top Story: Halle Berry File for Divorce
Actress Halle Berry has filed for divorce six months after separating from her husband of three years, R&B singer Eric Benet. Berry's publicist confirmed the filing Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, The Associated Press reports. The couple met in 1999 at an HBO party for the premiere of the biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, in which Berry starred as the first black woman nominated for a Best Actress Oscar with 1954's Carmen Jones. They married in January 2001. At the time of their split, tabloids speculated Benet's faithfulness was an issue in their marriage. In a statement issued by her publicist in October 2003, Berry said: "Eric and I have had marital problems for some time now and have tried to work things out together. However, at this point, I feel we need time apart to reevaluate our union." This is the second divorce for Berry, 37, whose previous marriage to Cleveland Indians outfielder David Justice ended in divorce in 1996.
Jackson Personally Terminated Lead Attorneys
Michael Jackson said in a statement posted on his Web site Monday that he personally "terminated" his two lead defense attorneys--Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman--in his child molestation case. The statement was made in defense to press reports that the two legal eagles had stepped down. On Sunday, Brafman told Reuters Sunday he and Geragos had resigned from the case over "complicated legal and practical issues" that he could not discuss. Jackson, however, did not come out and say why he dismissed his two lead attorneys, but hinted: "It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me. My life is at stake. Therefore I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority."
Godsend Web Site Causes Controversy
Web surfers have started petitions to close a Web site to promote Lions Gate's upcoming drama Godsend, in which a couple clone their dead son. The site, www.godsendinstitute.org, promotes a fertility clinic run by a Dr. Richard Wells, billed as "the top genetic engineering researcher" in the United States. The problem seems to be the fact that the site doesn't mention the film or that the Godsend Institute is fictitious and its Dr. Wells is actor Robert De Niro. "Almost everyone who goes to the site thinks it's real, but by the time they leave, most have figured it's fiction. Some even applaud it," Tom Ortenberg, president of film releasing for Lions Gate, told Reuters. He added that the studio is getting several hundred phone calls a day to the fake clinic's toll-free number, but none have been from people actually looking for help.
Blake's P.I. Won't Testify Before Trial
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp ruled Monday that prosecutors in the Robert Blake murder trial couldn't take pretrial testimony from a private investigator hired by actor to dig into his wife's past. Blake allegedly hired Jordan to investigate Bakley during a custody battle for the couple's 3-year-old daughter daughter. According to Reuters, prosecutors had wanted to examine 77-year-old William Jordan, a former police detective, under oath before the trial starts because of his age and the importance of his testimony. But Schempp rejected the motion because it is too close to the trial date. Blake is scheduled to go to trial in Sept. 9 for the May 4, 2001, murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. The Baretta star is free on $1.5 million bail
Stern's Ratings Soar Despite Crackdown
Even though federal regulators have recently tighten restrictions on indecency, specifically targeting shock jock Howard Stern, his radio show's ratings have only gone up. Reuters reports the show scored major gains in listenership during the winter quarter ended Mar. 31 in the three biggest U.S. markets--New York, Los Angeles and Chicago--according to figures made public on Monday by the Arbitron radio ratings service. In Stern's home market of New York, where his show is broadcast on WXRK-FM, he topped all morning drive-time competition with a 7.2 share in total audience, up 22 percent from the fall quarter and 18 percent from last winter, Arbitron said. Stern's show had dipped slipped to No. 2 in total audience last fall.
Blanchett Becomes Mommy for Second Time
Oscar-nominated actress Cate Blanchett and husband writer Andrew Upton welcomed their second son, Roman Robert, last Friday, Blanchett's publicist told Reuters. The couple have a 2-year-old son, Dashiell. The 34-year-old actress will be seen next in Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator, portraying screen legend Katharine Hepburn.
Pointer Sister Faces Drug Charges
June Pointer Whitmore, the youngest member of the '70s hit-making group the Pointer Sisters, was charged Monday with cocaine possession, Reuters reports. She was arrested last Thursday with two other people outside the Hollywood apartment of her older sister, Bonnie, but was released on bail. Details of Whitmore's arrest were sketchy, Reuters reports, but a spokeswoman for prosecutors said she and her co-defendants were confronted by police officers who responded to citizen complaints and found them in possession of cocaine and cocaine pipes.
Role Call: Polanski Finds His Oliver Twist
Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, who is helming an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist, has found the right young actor to portray the title character, after a search of London's drama schools. After a screen test in Prague, where Oliver Twist will be shot, 10-year-old Barney Clarke won the role. Ben Kingsley will play Fagin. Shooting begins July 12.