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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Bruno Mars, you sly dog, you. Earlier this week the singer claimed he wasn't going to be funny during his first go as a Saturday Night Live host, but who could have guessed that he'd not only be funny on the show, but also be the best host of Season 38 so far? (He'll certainly have some competition when the funniest man in showbiz Louis C.K. hosts in two weeks.)
The episode kicked off, predictably, with a cold open riffing on the Town Hall Presidential debate that took place earlier in the week. While the whole thing dragged a little too long (10 minutes, to be exact... if you want to fight me on that, I'll have Candy get the transcripts) and had no mention of "binders full of women," it was all worth the wait to see Jay Pharoah do the mic drop we all wished President Barack Obama had done during the debate and Tom Hanks pop up for the first of his four wonderful surprise appearances during the show. No live television blunders here: Hanks nailed it and earned solid laughs as a nervous Town Hall attendee. When can he host again?
But it was time for the real star of the show, host/musical guest Bruno Mars, to take the stage. And, boy, did he! The Grammy-winning artist put fellow song-and-dance openers Seth MacFarlane and Christina Applegate to shame with his catchy, self-aware (even he pondered "Can I be like Timberlake?"), and undeniably entertaining opening monologue number. At one point, the hat-friendly singer assured the crowd "I'll be amazing, I'll be great" and he wasn't kidding. Watch:
Even when the material wasn't at its best, like the mediocre "Haters" talk show sketch (in which Mars donned drag to play a fast-talking teen with attitude named Crystal) or the downright terrible Yeti cabin getaway sketch, the pop star gave the same level of commitment to each bit. Luckily for Mars, and viewers, those two were the only real lowlights of an otherwise truly standout episode.
In addition to Taran Killam's very funny, splendiferous, mintalicious — albeit, slightly too long-running as it certainly lost steam by the fourth go — take on Brad Pitt's cliched, terrible and prime-for-the-mocking Chanel ad ("Do I look super homeless?"), which took up a good portion of the show, the episode was all but Mars' for the taking. While the Pandora sketch wasn't exactly the funniest or most creative sketch of the night (let's be honest, it was just an excuse to have him sing more), it was hard not to be impressed by the host's wide range of imitations of everyone from Michael Jackson to Justin Bieber to Katy Perry to Steven Tyler to — who knew? — Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong. Watch the best of the four faux Pitt ads here:
Instead, my favorite sketch of the night belonged to the delightfully off-beat and surprisingly moving "Sad Mouse." Less of a sketch and more of a short film, Mars played a depressed man who dressed up as one of those depressing mascots that wave to tourists in Times Square. Set to melodramatic music, the soul-crushed performer had a smoke and laid down in the middle of a busy New York City street. (For any non-NYC readers, let me assure you, the sight of a patriotic mouse mascot at the end of his rope would not be out of the ordinary.) Just as all hope was lost, Mars' mouse found another down-on-their-luck mascot. The two locked eyes (well, mascot eyes, anyway), waved at each other, and walked off into the night together. If this is how SNL is hoping to fill the Digital Short void, they're off to a good start. Check it out:
If there was anyone or anything that was going to get the SNL audience as riled up as Mars (who put on two solid musical performances with the head-bopping "Locked Out of Heaven" and the soulful "Young Girls," both off his upcoming album Unorthodox Jukebox) and Hanks, it was the one-and-only Stefon. SNL fans have been eagerly waiting since May to see their favorite Weekend Update city correspondent and Bill Hader and his already iconic character did not disappoint.
Stefon's Halloween-themed visit had everything: Stefon's dog Bark Ruffalo, fraisans (that's raisins that look like Frasier), a human piñata (that's a midget — sorry, fun size person — that eats a lot of candy and throws up), and Hader's biggest scene break yet. It was Jewish Dracula Sidney Applebaum that, understandably, did him in. It was all well worth the wait. Plus, there was a rare bonus Stefon appearance when he introduced Mars' second musical performance, while Hanks took care of the first. Watch Stefon's welcome return here:
Since this was technically 2012's Halloween episode of SNL (though there wasn't much focus or mention of it), the creepy and consistently funny animatronics-come-to-life sketch made an overdue appearance this time. In addition to Killam's astoundingly impressive creepy robot moves, this installment featured Mars (who kept up effortlessly with Killam) and Hanks (who made a hilarious nod to how everybody thinks he has a "very likable face") as a murderous ride characters. Watch:
Typically the last sketch of an SNL episode is the worst, but since they'd already gotten that one out of the way with the uncomfortably bad Yeti sketch, they instead filled the space with one of their strongest recurring bits: a commercial for the latest festival from the sadly fictitious Under Underground Records. Imagine if Stefon was a Juggalo and you'd get something like this demented hilarity.
It had everything: a band named Todd Akin and the Legitimate Rapes, a Lincoln/Douglas debate reenacted by Linkin Park and Buster Douglas, a job interview with Herman Cain, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (the already great Kate McKinnon) doing a Borat impression, and the reappearance (and subsequent re-death) of Bobby Moynihan's Ass Dan and his twin Butt Dave. RIP. Even with his brief moment in the sketch as fake ID distributor Troy Kamanawana, Mars was getting big laughs and applause right up until the last minute. Justin Timberlake, you might not want to take too long of a honeymoon, Mars has some serious potential to take your spot.
What did you think of Bruno Mars' turn as both host and musical guest? Which sketch was your favorite? Least favorite? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Photo credit: NBC]
Saturday Night Live: Bruno Mars Pulling Double Duty As Host and Musical Guest
Tom Hanks Drops the 'F' Bomb on Live TV, Remains As Endearing As Ever
Give Bill Hader an Emmy or I'll Sic DJ Baby Bok Choy On You
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Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.