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
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.
Billy Crystal To Host Oscars Again
With planning for next year's 76th annual Academy Awards ceremony well under way, veteran comedian Billy Crystal is once again being tapped to host the 2004 telecast, according to a press release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This marks his eighth time as host, the last time being in 2000 at the 72nd annual awards show, and a reunion of sorts for Crystal and show producer Joe Roth. Crystal and Roth last worked together on the 2001 comedy America's Sweethearts, which Roth directed and Crystal starred in. The 76th annual awards show is scheduled to air live from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on ABC Feb. 29.
Streisand Bored by Her Own Songs
According to Reuters, Barbra Streisand said in an interview for the Oct. issue of Reader's Digest that one of the reasons she gave up public performances in 2000 is that she's bored of her own music. "Really, I just get sick of it. That's why I gave up concerts--in addition to having stage fright and the exertion of singing 30 songs a night. It's boring to sing your own songs," the 61-year-old performer said. In regard to her albums, Streisand commented, "I never listen to my records for maybe 10 years." Since bidding farewell to the public three years ago, the diva has performed once at a Hollywood fund-raiser for friends in the Democratic Party. Though her latest recording, The Movie Album, will hit record store shelves in October, Streisand told Reader's Digest that she doubts any public performances will follow.
Springsteen Album More Popular than Beatles'
According to Zagat Survey's Music Guide, which hit stores on Tuesday, Bruce Springsteen's album Born to Run has surpassed the Beatles' Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as the most popular album of all time. The new 332-page guide lists the top 1,000 albums in music history as determined by more than 10,500 music experts. Zagat trimmed its original list of 2,500 albums down to 1,000 by having survey respondents list their five favorite albums, and rating other selections that they were familiar with on a 30-point scale. Springsteen's Born To Run has been praised for its "cinematic vision of American teenage romanticism," along with its "promise of the endless Saturday night." Other entries in the 10 most popular albums list are U2's The Joshua Tree, the Beatles' The White Album, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Beatles' Revolver, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and U2's Achtung Baby.
Ian McKellen To Be Honored at British Film Awards Ceremony
The Associated Press reports that actor Ian McKellen will receive the Variety U.K. Personality award at the British Independent Film awards for his contributions to the British film industry. McKellen is perhaps best known for his portrayal of the magician Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films. Nominees for best film at the ceremony are Dirty Pretty Things, 28 Days Later, Buffalo Soldiers, The Magdalene Sisters, and Young Adam. The sixth annual awards presentation will be held in Hammersmith, West London, on Nov. 4.
Grammys to Return to L.A.
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced Tuesday that the 2004 Grammy Awards will be held at the Staples Center arena in Los Angeles, AP reports. In the past, the awards show, which honors the best of music, had regularly changed locations between L.A. and New York City, until former head of the Grammy organization Michael Greene had a highly publicized feud with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. As a result, the show remained in California from 1998 until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg took over the mayoral duties in New York. Greene has since stepped down as head of the Grammy organization amid accusations of sexual harassment. Current leader Neil Portnow said in a statement that he was "delighted" that the Grammy's will be returning to Los Angeles. CBS will carry the awards show telecast live on Feb. 8.
Kelsey Grammer Considering a Move to Politics
AP reports that the star of the hit TV series Frasier may very well take up politics when he's finished with his acting career. "If you have the good fortune to become wealthy doing what you love to do, what happens is you now have an obligation to give back in some way," explained Grammer on Fox News Channel's Hannity & Colmes. Though this is the final season of the NBC's Frasier, the 48-year-old actor insists that there is more he wants to do before leaving that profession to possibly run for the U.S. Senate.
MTV Cancels Tom Green's Talk Show
Gross-out comedian Tom Green had been given another chance at success with a new late-night talk show on MTV, but production of new episodes has been halted, according to AP. Despite favorable reviews, ratings suffered dramatically after its first week on the air. "Tom remains a part of the MTV family and we look forward to working with him in the future," said MTV spokeswoman Marnie Black on Tuesday.
Role Call: Baldwin Dives Into Swimmer
Reuters and the Hollywood Reporter report that actor Alec Baldwin will star in a remake of the 1968 film The Swimmer. In the original film, Burt Lancaster plays a middle-aged advertising executive who makes his way home by swimming through every backyard pool in his high-class neighborhood. Production of the updated version is slated to begin in the spring or summer of 2004.
Looks like Panic Room director David Fincher has settled on his next movie: the third installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise, according to Variety. The intense Fincher, who also directed Fight Club and Seven, has been palling around with star/producer Tom Cruise in recent months, due to similar interests in the Columbia Pictures WWII project, They Fought Alone. Even though Cruise has since passed on the Columbia film, the two seem to have developed a genuine desire to work with each other. Voila! Mission: Impossible III is born.
The other two Mission movies were directed by Brian De Palma (1996) and John Woo (2000) and grossed $454 million and $546 million worldwide, respectively.
Actor/director and all-around funny guy Ben Stiller and his wife, actress Christina Taylor (The Brady Bunch Movie), welcomed their first child, a baby girl. No word on the baby's name or weight.
Actress Josie Bissett and her husband, actor Rob Estes--formerly co-stars of the primetime melodrama Melrose Place (boy, we miss that show)--have a new addition to the household: a 6-pound baby girl. Bissett gave birth to Maya Rose Estes on Sunday in Los Angeles, according to her publicist. The couple, who have been married for nine years, also have a 2-year-old son, Mason.
As if we ever had any intention of doing it, Madonna doesn't want to be called "Madge." Playwright David Williamson, who is currently working with the diva on the new London West End play Up For Grabs, told The Australian, "The English newspapers call her 'Madge' to try to domesticate her, and she hates it." He added that she has requested all the other actors to simply call her "M." And we call this news. The play opens in May.
Clint Eastwood has been OK'd. To do what, you may ask? Well, the politically minded Eastwood, who was the mayor of Carmel for a few years, has been appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission by Gov. Gray Davis. The actor/director will sit on a nine-member panel, which meets about six times a year and governs policies for the more than 260 parks in the Golden State.
To the moon, Carmela! James Gandolfini wants to shed his Tony Soprano image for awhile and take on a new role: Ralph Kramden in the big-screen adaptation of The Honeymooners. Variety reports he has put out the word to Paramount and the producers that he is interested, looking to fill up his time during The Sopranos hiatus, which starts in May. The filming for the fifth season of the hit HBO show won't begin until January 2003.
Forget singing--Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyonce Knowles has gotten bit by the acting bug. Making her movie debut in this summer's Austin Powers in Goldmember, Knowles is positioning herself to star in The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr., about a rap producer who has to put together a gospel choir and lead it to success in order to get an inheritance.
Viacom's TNN: The National Network is looking at adult animation to fill up its programming schedule. It is developing a slate of new animated series, including Gary the Rat--about a lawyer who wakes up one day to find out he's turned into a 6-foot rat--voiced by Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, and Stripperella--about a stripper who moonlights as a superhero--voiced by Pamela Anderson. Now, that's a show we want to see.
MTV News reports former Van Halen lead singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar are going on tour together beginning May 29 near Cleveland. "Sammy and I are like fraternity brothers that have been through the same sh---y hazing," Diamond Dave said at Tuesday's press conference. "I think this tour is going to last a lot longer than Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love," who once toured together for nine shows.