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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When a young Jane Nebel met classmate Jim Henson at the University of Maryland in the early 1950s, not only a romance was born — the two married in 1959 — but a phenomenon that would maintain a stronghold on pop culture forever: the Muppets. With husband Jim, Jane Henson helped to create the googly-eyed, perpetually smiling breed of small screen sensations, effectively sealing her fate as one of the most influential figures in children's entertainment. Sadly, Jane is reported by Variety to have died on Tuesday in Conn., following a struggle with cancer. She was 78.
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Long past her separation from Jim in '86 and his death four years later, Jane strove to keep the spirit of the Muppets and everything the pair crafted within them alive. Queens, N.Y. native Jane brought her creative endeavors to Washington D.C.'s WCR-TV (where she and Jim appeared as college freshmen), the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Conn. (where she co-founded the National Puppetry Conference), and all across the nation, earning honors from a slew of organizations recognizing the importance of the art of puppetry. The Hensons' legacy carries forth through the persistent popularity of the Muppets, who will find form in a new caper film, Muppets... Again!, in 2014.
Jane is survived by her and Jim's five children: Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, John, and Heather.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
[Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
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While America will be celebrating one of its favorite pastimes this upcoming Sunday, it will also be remembering the tragic shooting that took place in Newtown, Conn. on Dec 14., when 26 children and faculty members that were brutally killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. To honor the victims, Jennifer Hudson and 26 students from the school will be performing "America the Beautiful" during the Super Bowl XLVII pregame, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said, according to USA Today. They are scheduled to perform shortly after Alicia Keys sings the National Anthem.
For Hudson, this performance will mark the second time that she has performed at the Super Bowl, and must carry a special personal significance due to the tragedies she herself has faced. Shortly after her mother, brother, and nephew were killed during a shooting in 2008, Hudson took a three-month break from the limelight. She didn't resume her public appearances until Super Bowl XLIII, where she sang the National Anthem.
On Sunday, Hudson and the chorus, will be putting on a performance that is sure to touch the hearts of everyone who watches.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Matt Sayles/AP Photo]
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Top Story: Quirky Comedies Win Top WGA Honors
The quirky comedies Lost in Translation and American Splendor took top honors Saturday at the 56th annual Writers Guild of America Awards, which were doled out in simultaneous ceremonies at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Pierre Hotel in New York. The awards, handed out by Hollywood's screenwriters, honor outstanding achievement in writing for the screen, television and radio during the 2003 season. Lost in Translation, written and directed by Sofia Coppola, won original screenplay, while American Splendor, penned by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, took best-adapted screenplay--a prize that was an expected shoo-in for the third and final installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But The Return of the King scribes Frances Walsh and Philippa Boyens and director Peter Jackson will get their chance again at the Academy Awards on Feb. 29, where they are nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay along with Pulcini and Berman for American Splendor, Anthony Minghella for Cold Mountain, Brian Helgeland for Mystic River and writer/director Gary Ross for Seabiscuit. The odds, however, are tipped in American Splendor's favor: In the past 12 years, eight Writers Guild of America adapted screenplay winners have gone on to win an Oscar.
Bobby Brown in the Hoosegow
Bobby Brown is back in the Big House. The 35-year-old singer, whose hits include "My Prerogative" and "Every Little Step," was being held Saturday without bond at the DeKalb County Jail in Georgia, The Associated Press reports, after being taken into custody for violating his probation on a previous drunken driving conviction. He is expected to remain in custody until a court hearing Friday. According to the AP, the ruling may be related to Brown's charge of misdemeanor battery in December following an argument with his wife, singer Whitney Houston. Brown has been on probation since January 2003, when he was convicted of a 1996 drunken driving incident. He had been ordered to remain on probation until Feb. 17, 2005.
Jackson's Exposure Not a Federal Case
While most American believe Janet Jackson acted in poor taste when she revealed her right breast during the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 1, only a few think it warrants a federal investigation. An Ipsos Group research poll conducted for the AP found that only 18 percent of those surveyed thought Jackson's exposure was an illegal act, while 54 percent said it was in bad taste. Meanwhile, a fourth of those in the poll said the act was neither in bad taste nor illegal, according to the AP. The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults was taken Feb. 16-18. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
American Idol Reject's Popularity Surges
Despite being unceremoniously booted off the Fox American Idol audition stage a few weeks ago, 21-year-old William Hung has become an instant celebrity. Hung has taken his gotta-see-it-to-believe-it version of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" and turned it into a bizarre quasi-career. Hung, a Southern California native studying at the University of California, Berkeley, tried out for American Idol in San Francisco last September but promptly got the brush-off from judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. But he has since become a hot commodity. After being invited to sing at a Cal volleyball game last week, he received offers from music cabler Fuse and New York-based record company Koch Entertainment for a record contract and music video production deal. Hung also made a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where he performed four songs. Three Web sites devoted to Hung have also gone up on the Internet in the past week, including one that generated 4 million hits in four days.
Ozzy Osbourne Ready To Rock
Though he's recently questioned his ability to perform onstage again, a neck brace-sporting Ozzy Osbourne says he will indeed headline the ninth annual Ozzfest touring festival this summer and denies reports that a team of paramedics and a mobile surgery would be standing by at the side of the stage should anything happen. "Number one, I'm not gonna die; I'm gonna make the tour," Osbourne, 55, said at a news conference Friday. "I'm not dead. I'm ready to rock, man." Osbourne crashed his four-wheel all-terrain vehicle on Dec. 8 at his estate in Buckinghamshire in southern England, leaving him with fractures in eight ribs and a vertebra. He expressed fears earlier this week that he might never perform again. The Ozzfest tour, which will play 26 locations across the United States, begins in Hartford, Conn., July 10 and wraps in West Palm Beach, Fla., Sept. 10.
Shaun Cassidy in Fender Bender
Former teen idol Shaun Cassidy was involved in a Thursday morning car crash that left a Warner Bros. studio security guard with minor leg injury. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Cassidy was driving into the studio when his car struck a vehicle that was stopped at the security gate. That car was then pushed into a third vehicle, trapping guard Conrad Perez between them. Perez was treated at a hospital and released. Cassidy was not cited. Cassidy, who costarred in the TV series The Hardy Boys Mysteries, went on to stage acting and then became a writer and producer for TV shows including American Gothic, The Agency and the current CBS series Cold Case.
Kristin Davis Keeping Charlotte's Wardrobe
Talk about a job with fringe benefits.