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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Top Story: Busta Rhymes' SUV Sprayed with Bullets
The Associated Press reports police are still looking for the suspect who fired gunshots at Busta Rhymes' black GMC Suburban Friday night after the rapper left it parked on a Manhattan street in front of his management company Violator Records. Last month, an unknown assailant also fired shots into the Violator offices. No one was injured in either shooting.
Ex-Heartbreakers Bassist Dies
Musician Howie Epstein, the former bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, died in a New Mexico hospital Sunday night, Reuters reports. He was 47. Epstein was booted from the band last May due to legal and drug problems. His cause of death was not immediately known but an overdose is suspected.
George Harrison's First Guitar on Display
A small acoustic wooden guitar the late George Harrison bought in the mid-1950s went on display at the Beatles museum in Liverpool Tuesday, Reuters reports. Valued at $800,000, the guitar has been loaned indefinitely to the museum. Harrison died in November 2001 of throat cancer.
King of Pop Back in Court
According to AP, Michael Jackson filed a court injunction Monday against Martin Bashir and Granada Television to block them from releasing unused footage from their 90-minute documentary Living with Michael Jackson. Jackson and his company MJJ Productions Inc. said in a statement Monday the unseen footage should be held until wider disputes are settled--specifically whether Bashir "breached the terms on which he was permitted to film Jackson."
The "Love Rat" Sues FOX News
Princess Diana's former love, James Hewitt, known in the British tabloids as the "Love Rat," has filed a $1 million breach of contract suit against FOX News, Reuters reports. Hewitt, who is also a former British Army commander and Gulf War vet, claims he was fired as a war correspondent for the news organization after he allegedly leaked the terms of his deal to London's Daily Mirror.
MTV Nixes Rap Contest After Fans Go Haywire
MTV had to cancel their plans to hold a weeklong MC Battles rapping contest after thousands of wannabes who were lined up Monday outside Times Square in New York started pushing and shoving in the streets. Reuters reports a police statement said two police officers were injured and four people were arrested for disorderly conduct.
Pat Robertson Returns to the Pulpit
Hallelujah! A week after successful surgery to remove a cancerous prostate gland, evangelist Pat Robertson returned to spread the Word on his television program The 700 Club, AP reports. Robertson, 72, said in a statement he hopes his example will serve as a reminder to men older than 50 to get early screenings for prostate cancer.
ROLE CALL: Daniel Day-Lewis, wife Rebecca Miller Team Up; Peter O'Toole, Julie Christie Head to Troy
Variety reports Oscar nominee Daniel Day-Lewis will join his wife, director/writer Rebecca Miller, on their first collaboration together, the family drama Rose and the Snake. Day-Lewis will play the father of a 16-year-old, both living in an abandoned commune on an island off the northwest coast of Canada. British thesps Peter O'Toole and Julie Christie join the star-studded cast of Wolfgang Petersen's Greek epic Troy, including Brad Pitt as Achilles and Orlando Bloom as Paris. According to Variety, the search to cast the part of Helen of Troy, "the face that launched 1,000 ships," is still in progress.
ROLE CALL, Part II: Rob Lowe Battles Vampires; The Witching Hour Approaches
Ex West Wing-er Rob Lowe will star in the TNT miniseries Salem's Lot, based on the Stephen King book about a small Maine town being taken over by vampires. And speaking of the supernatural, Variety reports Columbia Pictures' has two witch projects in the works--a remake of the 1942 comedy I Married a Witch, with Danny DeVito on board to helm and Tom Cruise to possibly star; and the big-screen treatment of the 1960s TV hit Bewitched, with Nicole Kidman attached to star and writer/director Nora Ephron on board to write and possibly direct.