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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Michael Moore is always ready to pounce. Whether he's spending a few years tracking down subjects for a muckraking documentary or taking to the Internet to point fingers, Moore never fails to yank attention his way when he sees fit. Sure, it's crass and his tone is loud and unrestrained, but more often than not, his points are universal — regardless of what political side his audience falls on.
Moore's latest eruption took place Tuesday night, when the filmmaker took to Twitter to point fingers at the Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. Customs officials, and America as a whole after Palestinian documentarian Emad Burnat was held at the airport after arriving for the 85th Academy Awards. Burnat, whose film 5 Broken Cameras received a nomination for "Best Documentary Feature," was detained by officers at LAX, along with his wife and son, for an hour and a half before Academy lawyers (prompted by Moore) intervened.
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According to a statement released by Burnat, airport security questioned him about the purpose of his visit to the States. They didn't believe he was actually attending the Oscars. "Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary 5 Broken Cameras," said Burnat. "And they told me that if I couldn’t prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel, and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day." Adding to insult: Burnat is the first Palestinian to be nominated for an Academy Award — a fact that made the LAX officials' confusion sting even harder in Moore's eyes.
Moore explains in a blog that he communicated with Burnat via text throughout the debacle, instructing the documentarian to hand his contact information over to Homeland Security so that he could explain the situation and avert the crisis. In his statement, Burnat makes it clear that deportation was a very real possibility, but that the experience left him unfazed:
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"Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout he West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land, and not a single one of us has been spared the experience that my family and I experienced yesterday. Ours was a very minor example of what my people face every day."
To conclude his rant on Twitter, Moore made the simple, pointed quip: "Welcome to America."
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Getty Images; Wenn]
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