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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
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.
First in "Order"
Despite a strong showing by NBC's Law and Order, which topped the Nielsen ratings list for the first time last week with its season finale, CBS remained the top-rated network last week as such reliable standbys as JAG and Everybody Loves Raymond performed above expectations. The network wound up with an average 7.4 for the week with a 13 share. NBC was close behind with a 7.3/13, while ABC finished with a 6.4/11. Fox remained in last place among the Big 4 networks with an average 2.5/5 for the week.
The top 10 shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:
1. Law and Order, NBC, 14.2/23; 2. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 13.3/20; 3. Law and Order (special), NBC, 12.2/19; 4. Frasier, NBC, 12.1/19; 5. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Tuesday), ABC, 10.9/18; 6. Judging Amy, CBS, 10.8/18; 7. Millionaire (Monday), ABC, 10.7/17; 7. NYPD Blue, ABC, 10.7/18; 9. JAG, CBS, 10.5/17; 10. ABC Monday Night Movie: Anne Frank Pt. 2, ABC, 9.5/15; 10. Dharma & Greg, ABC, 9.5/15.0.
ABC's Brown to become new face of CNN
ABC News veteran Aaron Brown, familiar to many as the anchor of the Saturday edition of World News Tonight, has been nabbed by CNN, which is expected to feature him in an hour-long evening newscast beginning next fall, according to published reports. Thursday's New York Times said that CNN was hoping to use Brown to replace the recently retired Bernard Shaw as the news network's "defining face."
Ousted BET host Smiley to land at ABC
Former BET talk-show host Tavis Smiley, who was fired by the black cable network last March after he sold an interview to ABC's PrimeTime Thursday, is close to a deal that would see him hosting a daytime talk show on ABC as well as contributing to its magazine shows -- including PrimeTime Thursday -- on a regular basis, published reports said Wednesday.
No backlash to "Survivor" revelations, says CBS
Following the release of a deposition by Survivor contestant Dirk Been in which he acknowledged being influenced by producer Mark Burnett to change a key vote during the production of the show, CBS has received no letters and only two email messages about the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing a CBS spokesman. Both email messages supported the network, the newspaper said. Analysts contacted by the WSJ expressed doubt that an audience backlash would materialize as a result of the lawsuit brought by another contestant, Stacey Stillman, against CBS and the Survivor producers. "This is no quiz-show scandal," Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, told the WSJ.
Porn site pays Anderson and beau "seven figures"
The Internet porn site Internet Entertainment Group has settled a lawsuit brought against it by former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Bret Michaels, the lead singer of Poison, for "a seven-figure sum" for attempting to sell video of the couple having sex. Previously IEG had settled a case with Anderson over another sex tape that it distributed showing her having sex with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. According to published reports, unlike the Anderson-Lee video, the Anderson-Michaels tape was never widely distributed because Anderson's attorneys took prompt legal action against IEG to block it.
"Big Brother" is Britain's "most censored" show
The live daily telecasts of the hit reality show Big Brother on the U.K.'s digital channel E4 have easily become the most censored shows in TV history, the London Daily Mirror reported Thursday. Broadcast on a 10-minute delay to allow the station to screen conversations between the contestants in a house where TV cameras are trained on them throughout the day, the telecasts frequently include long segments in which no sound is heard at all. During one hour sampled by the Mirror, only 27 minutes was broadcast uncensored, with the sound cutting out more than 30 times. A spokesman for the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, an official watchdog, told the newspaper: "There is nothing in living memory as heavily bleeped as Big Brother." Meanwhile, contestant Penny Ellis, whose employer, a private school, has threatened to fire her after she appeared briefly in the nude during a Big Brother telecast, said Wednesday that she will be probably quit. "I would be a lunatic [to return]," she said. "I wouldn't get any work done. It's best not to go back for the safety of the kids and the structure of the school."
R-rated movies walloped by enforcement
Ticket sales for R-rated films have plummeted since movie theaters, bowing to political pressure, began tightening their enforcement of age restrictions, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing a study by research group MarketCast. The study concluded that "significant numbers" of children under 17, especially girls, were being deterred from seeing R-rated movies. The theaters' policies, the study said, caused the recent releases The Mexican, starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, and Angel Eyes, starring Jennifer Lopez, to lose a major share of the audience that ordinarily would have been attracted to them, the study said. It estimated that the movie Tomcats, from Joe Roth's Revolution Studios lost 30 percent of its potential audience because of theater enforcement of age restrictions. "I think the implications are that studios will take a hard look at movies that could be cut to be PG-13," Michael Schwartz, research director at MarketCast, told the Post. "They'll ask whether the R-rated scenes will gain them enough appeal to offset the losses, especially where there is strong teen interest." Indeed, Roth told the newspaper that he would never make a movie like Tomcats again. "This is material that's mostly innately appealing to 12- to 16-year-olds, so you're really stuck."
"The Star offers Blake $100,000 to take lie test
Supermarket tabloid The Star has offered actor Robert Blake $100,000 to take a lie detector test in connection with the murder of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Neither Blake nor his attorneys have responded to the offer. In an interview with Thursday's New York Post, Star editor-in-chief Tony Frost commented: "If Mr. Blake has nothing to hide, what better way is there of removing the umbrella of suspicion? ... The results of a polygraph are not admissible in a court of law, but they do go a long way to convincing the court of public opinion."
Cahners pink slips "Variety," "Broadcasting" employees
Cahners Publishing, whose trade publications include Variety and Broadcasting & Cable, said Wednesday that it is pink-slipping 140 employees, representing about 3 percent of its work force. The company also eliminated an honor-system policy of allowing employees to leave at 1: p.m. on Fridays, provided that they make up the missed time during the rest of the week. The company said that it was reacting to current economic conditions.
Wanna buy a Muppet?
EM.TV, the troubled German media company that paid $680 million for The Muppets just two years ago, may only get about $200 million if is able to unload the characters, who include Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, the New York Post observed Thursday, citing industry analysts. Chris Bryne, editor of Toy Report, told the newspaper: "The problem is that the Muppets aren't hot the way they once were. ... Any new owner will face the difficulty of trying to make all these characters relevant again." Among the possible buyers, the Post said, are Disney, Viacom and Jim Henson Productions, the Muppets' creators.
News spoof says Disney planning "enhanced edition" of "Pearl Harbor"
Newsweek magazine, in an apparent spoof of itself, began running a "Web Exclusive" on its Internet site Wednesday, saying that the Walt Disney Co. is planning to spend an additional $145 million on an "enhanced edition" of Pearl Harbor that will be "longer, louder and dumber" than the original and will be the "most historically inaccurate" movie ever made. The article said that a number of big stars will be added to the film, including the musical groups 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys "who will appear together in an exciting 'battle of the bands' sequence during which they will be struck by Japanese bombs and perish. "The sequence 'tested through the roof,'" according to the satirical piece, which Newsweek credited to "The Borowitz Report."
In Wednesday's edition of Studio Briefing, we quoted FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman as saying that Town & Country has emerged as the biggest box-office flop in history. A reader responded that 1995's Cutthroat Island, which cost $92 million to make and earned only $11 million (and, in the process, wrecked Carolco, the indie studio that made it), may rightfully claim that dubious distinction.