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 decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Ryan Seacrest calls Simon Cowell "pompous"
Ryan Seacrest, host of Fox's hit series American Idol, dissed acerbic judge Simon Cowell during a visit to Singapore, where a local version of the program is planned. "I think that he's pompous. I think that he's arrogant. So my feelings about him, and the way that I address him on air, are very real," Seacrest said Wednesday in an interview with the Straits Times newspaper. "I think he says things that are at times a bit too harsh and could probably convey them in a different light so that they don't crush a young person's dream." But the 29-year-old emcee added that Cowell was a good friend and the "most honest" of the show's three judges, according to excerpts published by The Associate Press. A record 65 million phone votes were cast in the finale of the latest American Idol season, which saw 19-year-old single mother Fantasia Barrino crowned the third Idol winner.
Catherine Zeta-Jones' stalker charged
A 33-year-old woman was charged in Los Angeles last week with stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones and making threatening phone calls, Reuters reports. According to a statement released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Dawnette Knight was arrested at her Beverly Hills apartment after a four-month investigation, during which time Zeta-Jones was the target of numerous threatening letters and phone calls. Knight was arraigned on one count of stalking and 25 counts of making "terrorist threats." She remains in custody. The British actress is married to Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas, and won an Academy Award last year for best supporting actress in the hit musical Chicago.
Pat O'Brien joins ET spinoff
Pat O'Brien is leaving Access Hollywood for a new gig as the Los Angeles anchor of The Insider-- a new spinoff of Access Hollywood's rival Entertainment Tonight set to premiere Sept. 13. AH executive producer Rob Silverstein said Wednesday that O'Brien's contract with the show was expiring and his departure was amicable. Sources told Reuters that former Good Morning America correspondent Lara Spencer will serve as O'Brien's New York counterpart on The Insider, while Access Hollywood East Coast correspondent Billy Bush will relocate to Los Angeles to share anchor duties with Nancy O'Dell, who has been with the show since it launched in 1996.
Johnny Ramone's wife says guitarist isn't dying
Johnny Ramone, who has been living with prostate cancer for several years,
was recently admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles with
what his physician called a "complication from the cancer." Ramone’s
hospitalization set off a nationwide media deathwatch earlier this week.
According to MTV.com, his wife Linda Ramone was so dismayed by the funereal
headlines that she authorized Ramone’s doctor to explain his condition to
the media--despite the fact that the 55-year-old guitarist refused to issue
a corrective press statement. Dr. David Agus told MTV News Wednesday that
Ramone is now on a new, experimental therapy and predicts he will be going home
in the near term. "He's not dying," Linda said. "He was OK for years, and
he's fine now. He's in the hospital, but he's not in ICU. And I think he may
be leaving by tomorrow."
Screener issue rises from the ashes
Following a year of controversy over the Motion Picture Assn. of America's (MPAA) controversial screener ban, which bowed under legal action brought on by the indie film community, the issue is once again on the forefront. According to Reuters, Oscar voters could receive specially encoded promotional DVDs during the upcoming awards season. The discs would have to be played on a new system from Dolby Inc. unit Cinea, which would be sent to all members. Last year, major studios resorted to sending out watermarked VHS tapes because DVDs were considered more susceptible to piracy.
Franchise Pictures held accountable
A California jury on Wednesday ordered the production company Franchise Pictures to pay $77 million to Germany's Intertainment AG for padding production costs for about a dozen films such as Sylvester Stallone's Driven, Reuters reports. The legal dispute arose from a 1999 contract, in which Intertainment agreed to fund 47 percent of production costs for about a dozen big-budget U.S. films in return for European distribution rights. In some cases, however, Intertainment unknowingly picked up the entire tab for the big budget films, Intertainment's attorney Scott Edelman told Reuters. Other films included The Whole Nine Yards starring Bruce Willis and The Art of War starring Wesley Snipes.
Transient charged with grisly murders
Keven Lee Graff, a 27-year-old homeless man, has been accused of beheading 91-year-old Robert Lees, a once-blacklisted screenwriter best known for writing Abbott and Costello comedies, as well as stabbing Lees' neighbor, Morley Engleson, to death, Reuters reports. Police say that Graff murdered Lees, then cut off his head and ran with it to Engleson's home. There, police said, he interrupted the physician speaking on the phone and stabbed him to death. Graff was charged with murder with special circumstances, meaning that prosecutors could seek the death penalty against him if he is convicted, Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office told Reuters. Graff was arrested on Monday near the gates of the Paramount Pictures studio in Hollywood, one day after Lees and Engleson were found slain.
Role Call: Chocolate Factory casts kids, Bow Wow in Bounce
Director Tim Burton has rounded out his young cast for his updated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, including Anna Sophia Robb as Violet Beauregarde, Jordan Fry as Mike Teevee, Julia Winter as Veruca Salt and Philip Wiegratz as Augustus Gloop. British actor Freddie Highmore had previously been cast in the title role of Charlie, while Johnny Depp will portray Willy Wonka ... Rapper Bow Wow (grown up for being 'Lil Bow Wow) and Chi McBride are teaming up for Roll Bounce, a roller-skating comedy. Set in the '70s, story revolves around X (Bow Wow) and his pals, who rule supreme at their local roller-skating rink, but when the doors close, the boys venture into foreign territory--uptown's Sweetwater Roller Rink, complete with over-the-top skaters and beautiful girls. Through his preparation for the showdown of the season, X manages to find himself and also help his dad (McBride) get back on track.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.