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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
As The Avengers continues to attract wider audiences than that time Will Smith acted out the M*A*S*H finale during the Super Bowl half time show (that wasn't just a dream, right?), it's clear that people are interested in seeing more and more of these six Marvel heroes. While Captain America, Iron Man and Thor have their own cinematic sequels on the horizon, there's one character who is opting for a move to the small screen: The Hulk. It was announced in conjunction with the ABC Upfront event, by network Entertainment President Paul Lee, that Dr. Bruce Banner is being developed for a new television series.
The Hulk was first immortalized beyond his comic book fame by the 1970s-'80s live action CBS series, starring Bill Bixby as David (rumors are that intolerant producers were afraid that the name Bruce had homosexual connotations... wrap your head around that, if you dare) Banner, and Lou Ferrigno as his rage-induced alter ego, the Hulk.
The series is by far the most celebrated adaptation of Stan Lee's comic book character to date, considered vastly superior to Ang Lee's (three Lees! You get a prize) 2003 film, and the 2008 Edward Norton starrer. Hollywood.com's Movies Editor Matt Patches spoke to Ferrigno, who has been involved in each of these projects (as well as The Avengers; he provides the voice for the Hulk in all three movies). The Hulk agrees: the TV show was better.
Thinking optimistically, it will be even better this time around. Although the big screen world is arguably crumbling into a state of desperate unoriginality, the world is currently experiencing the golden age of dramatic television. Character development, well-crafted plot lines, and invigorating realities are at an all-time high. Bixby's The Incredible Hulk was ahead of its time. And now, time has caught up. So, a remake should fit right in (or advance creativity even further).
The personal attention a TV show can pay to Dr. Banner is far more suitable for the character than the overwrought big screen medium. If done well enough, ABC's Banner might even take the company of Television's League of Supreme Antiheroes: Dexter Morgan, Don Draper, Walter White, Tyrion Lannister, and (it might be too soon to make this claim, but so be it) Hannah Hovarth. Considering what people are tuning into these days, the troubled character could very well draw a heap of praise. The Avengers link doesn't hurt, either.
Paul Lee stated, "[The series] wasn't going to be ready this season but we hope it's going to be ready for next season ... We're going to continue to develop aggressively."
The Hulk Problem: Lou Ferrigno on Marvel's Struggles to Bring the Hero to Screen
Post-Avengers: What's Next for the Marvel Heroes
Avengers Sequel: It's On!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Set in a seaside English town in the '80s this small heartfelt tale centers on the relationship between Edward a 10-year-old boy whose parents run a retirement home and Clarence an aging magician and recent widower who is one of the new residents. Lonely and curious Edward has a habit of befriending the old folks only to search for their ghosts after they die. When Clarence comes in both learn new life lessons as the older one comes to terms with his past while the younger boy finds reason for optimism as he faces the future.
WHO’S IN IT?
Michael Caine is wonderful in a startling character role in which the 76-year-old movie icon allows himself to look older drawn and beaten in parts of the film. Although the career of the two-time Oscar winner has been full of memorable performances ranging from Alfie in 1966 to The Dark Knight last year it’s this kind of realistic and moving portrayal that has marked the best of his work. and he’s never been better than in this memorable portrait of a forgotten magician who still manages to discover a couple of new tricks late in life. Matching him every step of the way is the engaging Bill Milner (Son of Rambow) who manages to go toe-to-toe with a screen legend without coming off as a too precocious of a child actor. He’s haunting and extremely natural in a pivotal three-dimensional role that never seems forced. Helping matters immensely is a great ensemble of splendid British stars who play the other residents including the great Rosemary Harris Leslie Phillips Sylvia Syms and Peter Vaughan.
Director John Crowley (Boy A Intermission) wisely lets his actors off the leash to create a chemistry that makes the modest story work its own kind of movie magic. Reminiscent in certain ways of the kind of British kitchen-sink dramas popular in the '60s Crowley resists any opportunity to let directorial flash overwhelm this poignant character-driven tale thereby letting it thrive on its own terms.
With such a superlative cast of British-acting royalty in the supporting roles you almost wish there were a few more scenes showcasing these characters in the film’s trim 91-minute running time.
Clarence rallies his talents to put on a magic show for the home’s residents. Caine pulls this off seamlessly and the sequence is pure delight.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
This quaint film won’t lose anything on TV screens and may be hard to find in wide release so take the opportunity to see it any way you can.