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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Thanks to movies along the lines of a Valentine's Day or a New Year's Eve or heaven forbid a Movie 43, all-star ensembles can often conjure up some pretty terrible thoughts. But don't let the casting news for Shawn Levy's adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's funny, heartbreaking 2009 novel This Is Where I Leave You give you cause for concern: this isn't going to be Garry Marshall's Sitting Shiva.
No, the movie looks like it's on the path to becoming a well-cast eccentric family drama on par with the likes of, say, Silver Linings Playbook. Hell, I'm gonna just go ahead and say it, this looks like it has even more on-point casting than the Oscar-winner. In fact, the film is shaping up to have one of the best big name ensembles in years. Case in point: Entertainment Weekly broke the news that all-around perfect human/Mrs. Tami Taylor (one in the same, really) Connie Britton has been announced as the latest addition to the already-stellar cast.
Tropper's story (which, you should read if you haven't already — it's a sad, sexy, and often hilarious book) revolves around a Jewish family sitting Shiva for their recently-deceased father at the home of their mother (played by Jane Fonda). The wildly different, screwed-up, but good-at-the-core Foxman siblings are at the center of the story — played by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver — but the supporting characters boast equally impressive names.
Britton will play the girlfriend of Driver's character, the youngest of the brood and the black sheep. A therapist, her character can deconstruct the Foxman clan with pinpoint precision, but can't seem to see that her too-young boyfriend won't give her the grown-up relationship she wants.
Adding to the on-the-nose casting of This Is Where I Leave You is Timothy Olyphant as the Foxmans' neighbor who once suffered a brain injury and was Fey's character's first great love; Kathryn Hahn as Stoll's sexually frustrated wife; Rose Byrne as Bateman's potential new love interest (in addition to dealing with his father's death, his character also has to come to grips with his estranged, pregnant wife played by Abigail Spencer); and Ben Schwartz as their rabbi (Rabbi Jean-Ralphio in the mix!) in the Warner Bros. project.
Supporting characters still apparently up for grabs: the shock jock boss with whom Bateman's wife has an affair, and the Olyphant character's mother, who is close to the Foxman matriarch. (Looking at you, Aaron Eckhart and Kathy Bates!) This Is Where I Leave You, which also has Tropper on board as the screenwriter (always a smart move with adaptations), is reportedly scheduled to begin shooting with its A-list cast in May. Its eventual release date can't come soon enough.
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Nobody would have put money on John C. Reilly not appearing in the upcoming Anchorman sequel. Since his inception into the Frat Pack community by way of Talladega Nights, Reilly has been the constant Costello to Will Ferrell's... other, slightly taller Costello, a pattern that all but promises to continue come the revival of Ron Burgundy: Bleeding Cool has apprehended a casting call from CL Casting, seeking a John C. Reilly stand-in for an in-production Atlanta, Ga.-based film (the sequel is presently shooting in said location):
Do you look like John C. Reilly? We’re seeking a caucasian male, 6’2″, any age. THIS SHOOTS TOMORROW, FEB 28th. Please submit your stats and 3 photos to TeachMan2ATL@gmail.com with the subject line JOHNNY DOUBLE.
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Although reps for Reilly and Anchorman 2 were unavailable for confirmation, the inclusion of the actor in this movie is a no-brainer. The original anchorman — since which we've seen Reilly/Ferrell pairings in the aforementioned NASCAR comedy, Step Brothers, Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, and some Internet projects like Fight for Your Right Revisited and this nonsense — feels kind of empty without Reilly... especially with the hordes of Ferrell friends making up the supporting team: Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Kathryn Hahn, Chris Parnell, Jack Black, Fred Armisen, and Seth Rogen among the backup players.
So what role might Reilly, if he is in fact on board, take for the sequel: a rival newsman in the vein of Wes Mantooth and Tim Robbins' villainous public-access anchor? A station manager with a distaste for Burgundy's free-wheelin' attitude? An internet journalist who looks to discredit the entire media of television news broadcast with his Julian Assange-like passion for free information?
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And more importantly, who do we know that looks enough like John C. Reilly to nab the gig? Craft services' doggy bags. That's really livin'.
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[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
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In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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