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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The Hollywood studios are already hyping their crop of blockbusters for summer 2002, and it started long before Entertainment Weekly put Spider-Man stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst on its June 29 cover.
The hype went into overdrive in a galaxy far, far away, when George Lucas announced that he would unveil Star Wars: Episode II in May 2002.
In fact, sequels like Episode II seem to be a dominant theme for next summer's big releases. And chances are, if it's not a sequel, it's an adaptation of a cartoon or comic book hero. Could Hollywood be on to something?
"Until recently, sequels were lucky to do 60 percent of what the first film did," Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations said. "But with films like Mission: Impossible 2, Austin Powers 2 and Hannibal, the tide has changed."
Sequels are indeed proving to be a good summer formula. Dergarabedian noted that sequels are now outperforming their original counterparts.
"There is a built-in fan base inherent in sequels. They are pre-marketed," he said.
Video rentals don't hurt the cause either. Austin Powers, for example, found an audience on video that helped fuel the sequel's success.
Is the hype for summer 2002 too much, too soon? Only next summer will determine that. While the formula of sequels and hyping works now, you can only fool an audience so long.
Here are some films to watch out for next summer:
Spider-Man's senses must have been tingling on the set of this Marvel Comics classic. Since shooting began in January, death, injury and theft have plagued the troubled set. Let's hope the film, which explains how shy high school student Peter Parker acquires his web slinging abilities, has better luck at the box-office. Tobey Maguire takes on the role of Spider-Man, Kirsten Dunst the salacious Mary Jane Watson and seasoned Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: May 3, 2002
Star Wars: Episode II
Set 10 years after Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace, Darth Sidious takes over the Republic, turns it into an empire and controls everything. The Clone Wars reach their pinnacle as the Jedi Knights struggle to defend the galaxy from the forces of evil. Meanwhile, Anakin Skywalker falls in love with Queen Amidala but begins to succumb to the Dark Side of the force. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman will reprise their roles. Ewan McGregor will take on the part of Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi as a young man. Cool guy Samuel L Jackson will play Jedi Knight Mace Windu. But will the presence of the all-CGI character Jar Jar Binks spawn as many venomous anti-fan Web sites as he did with The Phantom Menace? (20th Century Fox)
Release date: May 22, 2002
How can you go wrong with a group of teenagers who ride around in a van called "The Mystery Machine," solving crimes with their dog, Scooby-Doo? This is a live-action adaptation of the half-hour animated Hanna-Barbera series The Scooby-Doo Show, which aired on ABC from 1969 through 1974. It will be interesting to see how true the film stays to the story and its characters. But will there be a romance between real-life couple Freddie Prinze Jr and Sarah Michelle Gellar who play Fred and Daphne? And will those references we never got as kids be kept in? (Warner Bros.)
Release date: June 14, 2002
Adam Sandler plays a small-town guy who inherits a fortune and moves to the big city where he is quickly besieged by opportunists gunning for their piece of the pie. One of them is a pretty girl played by Winona Ryder. Seems someone finally told the actress that she needs make herself more marketable. Based on the Frank Capra classic Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: June 21, 2002
Steven Spielberg directs this sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic judicial system in which killers are arrested and convicted before they commit murder. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, who also wrote Blade Runner, it stars Tom Cruise as Officer John Anderton. (20th Century Fox)
Release date: June 28, 2002
Men in Black 2
Fans have been anticipating this sequel to the 1997 blockbuster hit based on a Marvel Comics comic book about agents who protect Earth from extraterrestrial aliens. The irreplaceable Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles as Agents J and K, and Linda Fiorentino as Elle. If the anticipation is too much, check out the WB cartoon Men in Black: The Series on Saturday mornings.
Release date: July 3, 2002
Stuart Little 2
Who ate my cheese? It can only be Stuart Little (voiced by Michael J Fox), the super-intelligent mouse. He returns alongside his adoptive family (Geena Davis,Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki. Melanie Griffith lends her voice to Margalo, a bird out to romance the lovable rodent. (Sony Pictures)
Release date: Summer 2002
Austin Powers 3
Mike Myers is back as the International Man of Mystery. This prequel to earlier Austin Powers films follows the adventures of the world class playboy and part-time secret agent Austin Powesr as he finds his long lost parents. Also starring Heather Graham. (New Line Cinema)
Release date: Summer 2002