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.
Top Story: James Brown's Wife Explains Disheveled Mug Shot
James Brown's wife, Tomi Rae Brown, who is currently accompanying the Godfather of Soul on tour in Australia, says that the wild-looking booking photograph taken after the singer's arrest on domestic abuse charges could've been avoided. He was arrested in January after the couple got into a fight at their Beech Island, S.C., home in January. "I tried to give the police a comb for him," she told The Augusta Chronicle Monday. "I asked them to let me put him in some clean clothes. I asked them not to take the Godfather out looking like that." Brown, who says she loves her husband and wants to stay with him despite his pending criminal domestic violence charge, went on to explain that they had been through a tough weekend without electricity following an ice storm that left thousands of South Carolinians without power. "We had gone for three days with no power and no heat and we were freezing to death," she said. "Mr. Brown woke up that morning disheveled and I wanted to leave. I wasn't allowed to. That's when I made the 911 call, that's when the chair was raised over my head and that's when the police came." She said she hopes the couple can start over.
J.Lo's Mom Wins $2.4 Million Jackpot
Just like her daughter Jennifer, Guadalupe Lopez use to have a little, now she has a lot. The Associated Press reports that J.Lo's mother won a $2.4 million jackpot while playing $1 slots at Atlantic City, N.J. According to the casino, 58-year-old Guadalupe Lopez of New York was playing Wheel of Fortune at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa when she hit for $2,421,291.76 Saturday evening. A casino spokesman denied knowing of any relationship between the jackpot winner and actress/singer Jennifer Lopez. Us Weekly magazine, however, reports in its upcoming issue that Guadalupe Lopez is indeed J.Lo's mom, and that she plans to use a portion of her winnings to start a $100,000 college fund for her grandchildren.
Driver for Spears Tour Bus in Police Chase
A bus driver transporting crew and equipment for Britney Spears' concert tour led police on a brief pursuit Monday, the AP reports. Tennessee native David Raines, 51, was driving south on Interstate 93 in Northfield, N.H., at around 7 a.m., when state police tried to stop him for going 78 mph in a 65 mph zone. But Raines continued driving about 10 miles to Canterbury, where he was stopped after pulling off the highway. Raines was arrested but allowed to continue on to deliver the crew and equipment to Manchester, where Spears is to perform tonight. Spears was not on the bus and the crew, who was asleep at the time of the stop, was not aware of what happened. Rains later failed to appear in court on charges of speeding and disobeying police.
Diana Ross Not Ordered Back to Jail
Singer Diana Ross, 60, will not have to return to jail for driving drunk after all. Magistrate T. Jay Cranshaw ruled Monday that Ross had fulfilled the terms of her two-day sentence, despite having been released one hour too early. In February, Ross pleaded no contest to a drunken driving charge in Tucson, Ariz., and arranged to serve her 48-hour sentence in Greenwich, Conn., where she lives. But based on an account from Greenwich police, Cranshaw found that the singer had failed to serve 24 consecutive hours as required by Arizona law, and fell short of her 48-hour sentence by one hour. Cranshaw had ordered Ross to return to Tucson to serve 48 consecutive hours in the Pima County Jail but the singer's attorneys had asked the judge to reconsider.
David Beckham Denies Marital Infidelity
England soccer captain David Beckham, who is married to former "Posh Spice" Victoria Beckham, is denying allegations that he had an affair with his personal assistant last year, Reuters reports. The U.K. tabloid The News of the World reported alleged details of a relationship between him and 26-year-old Rebecca Loos, and printed explicit phone text messages that it claimed were sent by Beckham. Loos worked for Beckham, 28, when he moved to Spain last September to join Real Madrid. Beckham issued a statement Sunday describing the charges as "ludicrous." Victoria Beckham, 29, told the Sun tabloid the couple's relationship would survive the accusations. "We have been through a lot worse than this," she said. "And we're definitely going to get through this."
Sugar Ray in Spike TV Reality Series
Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath told the AP Monday the group will participate in Spike TV's reality show On the Road, bringing eight contestants on tour with them. Winners will land a job with a music label and a new Kia. McGrath, who described the show as a cross between The Apprentice and The Real World, said contestants will learn the ropes of the music industry, including tuning guitars and promoting Sugar Ray's concerts. The band fires one person at the end of each episode, and McGrath said each losing contestant will have to "walk the Walk of Shame"--a term Sugar Ray uses for a band or crew member who brings a "paramour onto the bus for the night." The show is slated to air this summer.
Foxes Cuts Off Wonderfalls
Fox has canceled its fantasy-drama Wonderfalls after than a month because of low ratings, the AP reports. Set in the Niagara Falls area, the series starred Caroline Dhavernas as a young woman who hears voices coming from animal figurines and other objects, directing her to intervene in the lives of other people. The series, which had its final showing last week, debuted March 12 and ranked 103rd for the week of March 22-28 with an audience of 3.3 million.
Role Call: Witherspoon Becomes a Sports Widow
Reese Witherspoon will star in and produce Universal Pictures' romantic comedy Sports Widow for director David Mirkin (Romy and Michele's High School Reunion). According to Reuters, the film revolves around a woman (Witherspoone) who one-ups her football-obsessed husband by becoming an expert on the sport.