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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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
'Tis Valentine's Day, for loved ones to unite and lovelorn to show spite. In observance of this occasion, we find Tinseltown's love/no-love meter has been cranked up a notch.
Former bad-boy Christian Slater got married over the weekend to former television producer Ryan Haddon at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The ceremony Saturday night was attended by 150 guests, according to his publicist, and officiated by author Neale Donald Walsch. The vows were taken from Walsch's book ``Conversations with God, Book 3.''
Slater, 30, was once as notorious for his bad behavior as he was for his wicked eyebrows. After squiring actresses (and co-stars) Winona Ryder, Samantha Mathis and Patricia Arquette as well as Christina Applegate and supermodel Christy Turlington, he was sued for palimony by longtime girlfriend Nina Huang after their 1995 split. He was later arrested for allegedly beating then-galpal Michelle Jonas and a police officer during a drug and alcohol-fueled brawl and spent three months in jail.
But that's all in the past; Slater's a family man now. He and Haddon, 28, have a 10-month-old son, Jaden Christopher, who will accompany his parents on their Hawaiian honeymoon.
ALL IN THE FAMILY: David Bowie and wife Iman have announced that they're expecting their first child in August.
Says the once-androgynous rocker, "It's been a long and patient wait for our baby, but both Iman and I wanted the circumstances to be absolutely right, and didn't want to find ourselves working flat out during the first couple years of the baby's life," Bowie, 53, said in a statement.
He and 44-year-old Iman, the Somali-born supermodel, were married in 1992. They have one child each from previous marriages.
Meanwhile, Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher suffered a crib-death scare over the weekend when 18-day-old daughter Anais suddenly turned blue and stopped breathing for about 30 seconds, reports London's Mirror. The musician phoned paramedics and passed instructions to his mother-in-law, who lay the baby on her back to clear the airways. The hospital gave Noel and the baby's mother, Meg Mathews, a breathing monitor in case the problem recurs.
COUPLINGS AND UNCOUPLINGS: London is also the setting for an engagement between Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay and Brit TV star Denise Van Outen, according to the Sun tabloid. The paper reports that Kay (real name Jason Kay) proposed with a $15,990 engagement ring after popping the question over dinner at his home.
Across the ocean, all was not well on the Dominican Republic front, where singer-actress Diana Ross and husband Arne Naess formally divorced Friday. The nation, which is the place for quickie divorces as long as one of the spouses is present, granted the split to the couple, who were married in 1986 and separated in April. The former Supreme, 55, and Naess, 61, have two children; Ross also has three daughters from previous relationships.
But in New York, a happy marriage took place for, well, Sigourney Weaver's dog. The actress' pooch exchanged collars with a "studly" Italian greyhound, which she calls "the Mel Gibson of Italian greyhounds," in a pre-mating marriage ceremony (or "muttrimony") at an Upper East Side pet boutique, according to the New York Post. No word on the prenup agreement.
QUICK TAKES: Film critic Rex Reed was arrested Saturday after he was allegedly caught shoplifting three CDs from a Tower Records store. The New York Observer columnist, 61, was seen removing albums by Mel Torme, Peggy Lee and Carmen McRae and putting them in his jacket pocket. Security officials stopped him, and he was charged with larceny and criminal possession of stolen property ...
... Miramax Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein emerged last week at a party for the New York Post's Page Six after months of rumors about the illness that kept him away from Sundance and the Golden Globes. The company spokesman maintains that Weinstein, 47, suffered a bacterial infection and is now back in the swing of things -- minus 40 pounds and wearing a nicotine patch to keep him away from those cigarettes.
... Leonardo DiCaprio is supporting Al Gore for president, according to an interview in the new Time magazine. The star of "The Beach" says he's on the verge of joining his campaign and almost took the stage during the New Hampshire primary to cheer on the White House hopeful. "I was going to just stand onstage and look hardcore," Leo tells Time. But likely he knew that would elicit fainting spells from the campaigner's daughters.
YOUNG AND RESTLESS: We'd like to take this time and promote some starlets who, despite their fame, looks and Internet downloads, are in the mood for love this Valentine's Day.
Perennially chirpy Jennifer Love Hewitt says, "I'm afraid that I'll never get married because I'm a hopeless romantic." She's currently seeing a musician she won't name, but as the 20-year-old recently revealed at a magazine luncheon in New York, "I'm going to end up alone when I'm 95, sitting home surrounded by 19 cats."
And teen pop queen Britney Spears, who has exchanged e-mails with Prince William, has confided her Valentine's Day wish to TV Guide Online: "My dream is to make a movie and to have a love scene with Ben Affleck. He is so real and so warm."
But if Ben's not available, she'd still like to date someone in show business. "Of course, if I met somebody at McDonald's and I fell in love with him, I'd have to go with my heart. But it would help being in the same industry, because you know what that person is going through, scheduling-wise," Spears, 18, says.
So basically, if you're a celebrity or a McDonald's cashier, you have a shot.