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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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Welcome to Bay City (that's San Francisco folks) circa 1975 where the action's hot and the afro sportin' platform shoes wearin' disco lovin' natives are even hotter. One such denizen is David Starsky (Ben Stiller) a by-the-book homicide detective whose motto is "When you cross the line your nuts are mine!" He's got a lot to prove--his mom was a legend in the force killed in the line of duty--and his fierce determination to bring in the bad guys drives away potential partners. Finally he's paired up with Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) a laid-back detective who "looks out for Numero Uno" and has a tough time upholding the law because he keeps breaking it. On their first day as partners the boys find a dead body floating in the bay. With the help of Hutch's super-fly "urban informant" Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) who tells them "I dish it out so you can play it out " they follow a trail that leads to businessman/suspected drug dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). The unlikely duo have to look past their differences and pool all their street smarts undercover skills and good looks to get to the bottom of this one.
Sometimes casting is everything. Without the manic and hilarious Stiller the breezy and unaffected Wilson the ultra-cool hip-hopper Snoop Dogg and the wry and flippant Vaughn Starsky & Hutch would quickly fall apart since it lacks anything resembling a compelling plot. Stiller and Wilson re-create that groovy chemistry they had in Zoolander; they read each other intuitively. But more important for those fans who want to wax nostalgic the actors also bear an uncanny resemblance to the original Starsky & Hutch players TV stars Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul (who of course make a strategic cameo--and don't look too bad for old guys). Same goes for Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear although he has a slightly menacing attitude that the original Huggy Antonio Fargas didn't. Vaughn makes a delicious bad guy spouting offhand non-sequiturs in the midst of the mayhem he creates. Case in point after shooting a delinquent minion on his yacht he sits down in the sun and asks his mistress (played by a gleeful Juliette Lewis) if he's "tanning weird." But Will Ferrell's brief appearance as a prison inmate with a penchant for dragons and belly buttons nearly steals the show.
This is director/co-writer Todd Phillips' (Road Trip Old School) third attempt at broad comedy and while we'd like to say he keeps getting better at it it wouldn't be true. Certainly Phillips has a knack for the genre: Old School combined a convincing albeit simplistic story with bellyaching hysterics and Phillips employs many of the same devices and an equally talented cast to pull off similarly hilarious moments in Starsky & Hutch. Unfortunately the director is working with limited and rehashed material. The original TV show version of Starsky & Hutch which ran from 1975 to 1979 was all about the adorable Starsky the drop-dead gorgeous Hutch the car--and that's about it. No NYPD Blue or Hill Street Blues high drama there. While Phillips hits all the S & H high points he isn't able to flesh out much more than the show did--and considering how hokey it was to begin with you wish he'd added something a little more to the original.
Hip-hop guru Russell Simmons said Tuesday he will announce plans this weekend for a boycott against Pepsi, accusing the soft drink giant of applying a double standard, Reuters reports. A few months ago, Pepsi yanked a commercial featuring rapper Ludacris after conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly urged a boycott and accused Pepsi of being "immoral" for using the foul-mouthed rapper to promote their product. Pepsi caved in to the pressure and pulled the 30-second television spot, but recruited potty mouth Ozzy Osbourne for a Super Bowl commercial only months later. A spokeswoman for Simmons said in a statement, "The boycott is being called in response to Pepsi dropping Ludacris as spokesman and subsequently picking up the Osbournes, who are no less vulgar." Meanwhile, a PepsiCo Inc. spokesman told Reuters the Ludacris controversy was an unfortunate experience. "It was our mistake, we learned a lot from it and we've moved on," the spokesman said. "We respect Russell's interest in bringing hip-hop talent to a larger audience and we have worked together to do just that," he added.
Madonna said she has not dyed her hair or started sporting baggy clothes because she is pregnant--and she is striking back at British gossip magazine Heat for saying so. Spokeswoman Liz Rosenberg said Madonna would file a complaint with Britain's Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body set up and run by newspaper and magazines, over inaccurate reports that she is pregnant with her third child. "It's not true ... it's not accurate. She dyed her hair brown instead of blond, that does not confirm somebody's pregnant. And she's been wearing baggy clothes for 20 years, so what else is new?" Rosenberg told Reuters.
Brit mag Hello!, meanwhile, told London's High Court Tuesday that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones couldn't complain over the use of unauthorized photos of their lavish New York wedding because they actively sought publicity for the event. The stars are suing the mag for an estimated $800,000 in damages for loss of income, stress and damage to their careers because of the poor quality of the shots, taken by gate-crashing photographer Rupert Thorpe. Hello! published the pics three days before rival magazine OK! hit the stands with official shots secured in a $1.65 million deal with the stars, Reuters reports.
A man who helped steal Nicolas Cage's 1989 Porsche 911 was sentenced to five years in prison Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, The Associated Press reports. Michael Gramling, 20, of Arnold, Mo., pleaded guilty last year after Missouri Water Patrol divers found the $100,000 car submerged in 12 feet of water at Lake of the Ozarks. It had been stolen a month earlier from a parking lot in Arnold while in a transport trailer on its way from California to Pennsylvania. Another defendant, Scott Air Force Base airman Robert Clerkin, 21, was previously tried on stealing charges in a military court and sentenced to six months in prison. His sentence includes a rank reduction, forfeiture in pay and a letter of reprimand.
Tickets are on sale now for the Santa Monica Film Festival, which runs Feb. 13-16 at the Laemmle Theater in Santa Monica, Calif., and features more than 40 independent and short films including Briar Patch (a dark love story starring Dominique Swain and Henry Thomas), Stevie (a documentary by Hoop Dreams director Steve James) and Lost Junction starring Neve Campbell. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are slated to receive the festival's Maverick Filmmakers award at the Feb. 13 opening night ceremony. Tickets and more information are available at www.smff.com.
Miramax offshoot Dimension Films is on board to co-finance the Warner Bros. action comedy Starsky and Hutch, which is based on the classic 1970s cop series. Originally the film was going to be an updated pic set in modern-day Los Angeles but has since been turned into a period piece. Co-financing was needed to cover the rising cost of costuming and set design expenses. Insiders tell Variety the budget for the pic is already north of $60 million. Directed by Todd Phillips, the film stars Ben Stiller as Det. David Starsky, Owen Wilson as Det. Kenneth Hutchinson and Snoop Dogg as their streetwise informant, Huggy Bear.
Director Mathieu Kassovitz, best known for his 1996 drama Hate, will helm the supernatural thriller Gothika starring Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz, Variety reports. The film revolves around a criminal psychologist (Berry) who awakens to find herself a patient in her own mental institution, unable to remember a murder she supposedly committed, and victimized by a vengeful spirit in the asylum. Cruz plays a fellow inmate. The film begins production in April and is scheduled for release at Halloween.
AP reports the first new Doors concert will take place on Friday in Los Angeles with a tour planned for later this year, despite a looming lawsuit. Original Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger re-formed the group and renamed it The Doors 21st Century, with Ian Astbury of The Cult on vocals and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland. But former Doors drummer John Densmore has now filed a suit seeking a court order prohibiting the band from calling themselves The Doors when they perform without him, and requests that Densmore be paid a share of profits from any shows that have already taken place without him.