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
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
A stage parody of the 1970s sitcom Three's Company has been stuck in legal limbo ever since the original copyright owners of the ABC classic filed a lawsuit, but now the playright is striking back, and he has the support of the theater community.
The original sitcom starred the late John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, and Suzanne Somers, and centered around Jack Tripper, a straight guy who pretended to be gay so he could live with two women (which is about as close to a real live gay person that 1970s network television allowed). Like all things gazed at through hindsight, we realized that the premise of a straight man pretending to be gay so that he could stay at an apartment with two women is silly, and the fact that he kept this charade up for seven whole years, and between two different landlords, and seemingly endless clones of Suzanne Somers (how many cousins could Chrissy really have?) is beyond preposterous.
As such, Three’s Company was in need of a good dissection, and playwright David Adjimi stepped up to the call. Adjmi intended to unwind the cultural knots and kinks at the heart of the show's premise. His play, titled 3C, intended to a cast a dark shadow over ABC's original perma-sunny Santa Monica. This time, the Jack character ("Brad" in the play) would still pretend to be an openly gay man in order to live in the The Wickers' apartment (the play's version of the Ropers, who were very conservative concerning co-ed roommates and yet surprisingly tolerant of homosexuality, huh?). This time around, though, the lead isn't straight, but a closeted gay man... pretending to be a straight man pretending to be a gay man. Hm.
Adjmi's play 3C ran for two months off-Broadway, and sought to open in even wider distribution, but the play was hit with a cease and desist letter from the copyright holders of Three's Company, who considered the parody to be too similar to the original version. Adjmi shelved the play after threat of legal action, but has since thrown caution to the wind and is attempting to publish the play in an anthology of his own work.
While the courts might find Adjimi at fault for copyright infringement in terms of the law, he is clearly within his rights culturally. Ever since the first stories was ever told, those first stories were mocked by the next batch of stories. Satire is a valuable piece of human expression, and it shouldn't be limited due to copyright claims since parody is already protected under fair use. Furthermore, several other properties, ones much more valuable than Three's Company, have received stage parodies that didn't cheapen the original brand, including The Simpsons (the play Mr. Burns) and Silence of the Lambs (Silence! The Musical). Beyond that, modern parodies often open the subject of satire to a new generation of fans. Three's Company doesn't resonate with many people under a certain age, but a new play examining the cultural mores of late '70s with regards to homosexuality might reintroduce the show into our current discussion of the topic.
After catching her live-in boyfriend in a compromising position Amanda sets out to find a new place to live. She ends up rooming with four supermodels (Shalom Harlow Ivana Milicevic Sarah O'Hare and Tomiko Fraser) whose apartment has a great view -- especially of Jim the "perfect guy" across the way. When Amanda in a "Rear Window"- type scenario witnesses Jim committing what she thinks is a murder she sets out to prove that he did it. However to her surprise she ends up falling head over heels (literally a lot of the time) for him instead.
The chemistry between Prinze and Potter is near perfect. Potter does a great job of playing a klutzy girl who can't seem to stay on her feet long enough to have a conversation with Jim. But then again who could? Prinze exudes his usual charm and winning smile while at the same time showing great comic timing. The more pivotal moments with the four models who are "struggling " as they like to say are well done and surprisingly hysterical. Who needs a drama when you can have four models who are actually funny?
Director Mark S. Waters and Prinze Jr. are together again after their 1997 film "The House of Yes." "Head Over Heels" is a cross between "Fatal Attraction " "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "There's Something About Mary " which means it's a bit muddled in its direction. Waters tries a little too hard for the shock value while at the same time trying to convey romantic comedy elements almost overshadowing the performances of the actors. But hey then again we get to see supermodels covered in poop. Priceless. Still the fairly clever and darker script plus the winning chemistry between the lead actors makes it worthwhile.