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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Director David Wain rounds up some of his buddies from the 1990s comedy troupe The State to poke fun at the do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments. No need to fall on your knees and pray for forgiveness if you’ve forgotten whose house you should not covet. Wain breaks down the Ten Commandments in episodic fashion and confers the task of introducing each outlandish morality tale upon his Wet Hot American Summer star Paul Rudd. The silliness is firmly established when Wain examines the consequences of worshipping a false idol. In this case it’s Adam Brody who enjoys fame and fortune after he accidentally jumps from a plane sans parachute. Not that he can reap the benefits of sudden stardom—he’s stuck in the ground and can’t be moved. But Brody’s predictament isn’t necessarily the oddest. A 35-year-old virgin (Gretchen Mol) goes weak at the knees when she’s hit on by none other than Jesus Christ (Justin Theroux). Liev Schreiber engages in a game of oneupmanship with his neighbor when both start snapping their town’s supply of CAT scan machines. Life imitates art when Winona Ryder learns the hard way that stealing causes her nothing but pain and shame. Rudd gets in on the fun as the lucky devil juggles married life with Famke Janssen with his booty calls with Jessica Alba. But Wain inflicts the most humiliation on his co-writer Ken Marino whose arrogant surgeon learns the hard way playing pranks on patients will only led to life in prison and a nightly “ass-raping.” As you can tell Wain’s not really into making subtle statements about the set of rules we observe—intentionally or otherwise—in our everyday lives. By finally making good use of her sticky fingers Winona Ryder reveals she’s ready to laugh at her past transgressions. Not that she goes off on a shoplifting spree. No she purloins a ventriloquist’s puppet in the name of love. Nothing in The Ten beats the hilarious though unsettling sight of a game Ryder getting all freaky with her wooden object of affection. She hasn’t let her hair down like this before so good for her. But she’s got some competition from Gretchen Mol whose screams of “Jesus” during hot and sweaty sex are let out with intense religious fervor. The award for Harried Husband of the Year goes to Paul Rudd Knocked Up’s henpecked spouse. But he plays the role of an estranged hubby with such biting wit that he makes marital disharmony a joy to behold. Still it’s hard to see why Famke Janssen and Jessica Alba—both wasted by the way—would fight over this dweeb. A hysterically deadpan Liev Schreiber spoofs his oh-so-serious forensics expert from this past season’s CSI Oliver Platt does a killer Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation and Rob Corddry gives brutal prison sex a kind face. The Ten isn’t exactly the full-fledged State reunion fans are waiting for especially as Thomas Lennon and Michael Ian Black barely make their presence felt. But Kerri Kenny is relentlessly cheerful as a sitcom-ish mom who fails to convince her two black sons that their real dad is the Governator. And an oily Ken Marino quickly loses his smirk once behind bars though he takes his punishment like a real man. David Wain can sleep well at night knowing that The Ten won’t cost him his place in Heaven. While there’s no denying that the Bible-inspired buffoonery on display is irreverent at best Wain and cohort Marino do not take a sledgehammer to the stone tablets. Instead they seem more interested in how the Ten Commandments play a role in our lives regardless of our religious beliefs. That said whatever point they try to make is lost amid the sexual shenanigans. Not that it takes a theologian to deduce that murder is bad stealing is wrong and buying up the town’s supply of CAT scan machines is asking for trouble. By the very nature of its structure The Ten can’t help but unfold as a series of interconnected sketches that sadly lack a punchline. But it’s so goofy and hilariously borderline offense that it’s hard not to be caught up in all the silliness. Indeed Wain’s preoccupation with sex provokes more nervous laughs than groans of disgust. And The Ten offers some side-splitting parodies of family sitcoms prison dramas crime procedure shows and preachy faith-based dramas. There’s even a warning against skipping church on Sundays—and letting it all hang out literally with your buddies—that would turn Homer Simpson into Ned Flanders. Wain orchestrates all this madness in the anything-goes manic style of Airplane! or Scary Movie. The Ten is by no means a minor miracle of the comedy kind but if you accept it for what it is rather than what it tries to be than it’s certainly worth skipping evening services to see.
Trouble begins to brew for the Springfield clan when Homer rescues a pig from the butcher’s guillotine. But Homer doesn’t want to eat his new pot-bellied pet—he takes it home and showers it with affection. Seeing Homer be a doting dad to a pig pisses off Bart--and leaves him vulnerable to the niceties of neighborino Ned Flanders. Meanwhile Lisa’s grassroots efforts to save the polluted Lake Springfield have paid off: the Environmental Protection Agency erects a cement barrier around it to protect it from its residents. The EPA's cockamamie plan actually works--until Homer decides to dump a homemade silo filled with pig poop into it creating a toxic cesspool. In a jab at FEMA and the New Orleans Superdome calamity the EPA retaliates by isolating Springfield under a giant Plexiglas-like dome leaving its citizens without food electricity or a way out. When Springfield residents try to lynch Homer and exact revenge the Simpsons escape the dome via a sinkhole in Maggie’s sandbox. But while the Simpsons escape Springfield they can’t flee their conscience—and Homer must return to save his hometown from the mess he created. It's a classic Simpsons tale that ends with the show's trademark theme of redemption. It won't disappoint fans but the story hardly warrants a feature presentation. Surprisingly producer James L. Brooks and creator Matt Groening didn’t go to town with guest star appearances on The Simpsons Movie something that often plagues the TV series. With the exception of an opening number by Green Day and a closing remark by a famed film star (OK it’s Tom Hanks) the actors who voice the Fox animated TV sitcom are the big-screen stars here including Dan Castellaneta (Homer/Krusty the Clown/Itchy/Barney/Grampa/Mayor Quimby) Hank Azaria (Moe/Apu/The Sea Captain/Professor Frink/Comic Book Guy/Chief Wiggum/Lou) Harry Shearer (Principal Skinner/Lenny/Dr. Hibbert/Ned Flanders/Mr. Burns/Rev Lovejoy) Julie Kavner (Marge) Nancy Cartwright (Bart/Maggie/Ralph/Nelson/Todd Flanders) and Yeardley Smith (Lisa). And just like the episodic Simpsons characters the feature characters do some uncontainable thing and eventually learn the error of their ways. But while Homer Marge Bart Lisa and Maggie take center stage other Springfield locals—such as Mr. Burns and Smithers--hardly make an appearance let alone Patty and Selma Bouvier. What separates The Simpsons Movie from the TV series is according to director David Silverman the production’s scale. This translates to more characters in each frame richer colors and textures and greater latitude for camera movement. "Normally you have a crowd shot the cut to a close-up " Silverman says of a scene in which a mob congregates outside the Simpsons’ home. "But I wanted to give the scene a lot of energy so I kept moving the camera into the crowd." But while the feature is visually more dynamic than the series it’s hardly something Simspons fans will take notice of. The series has a following because of its political and social lampooning and its 22-filled-minutes of well-timed jokes; there are no Pixar-type expectations here. Yet the film’s storyline as well as the character’s story arcs is no more relevant than a TV episode. The emphasis so to speak is on the wrong syllable. Panoramic views of Springfield and an in-depth look a Milhouse’s street and its one-level homes are intriguing tidbits fans are more likely craving and more of these should have been offered up in the movie adaptation. Show creators said they waited 18 years to bring The Simpsons to the big screen because they wanted to create a story that demanded the scope offered by a film but after a year-and-a-half in the making it doesn’t live up to the hype.
October 17, 2002 12:08pm EST
It's that time of year again when Simpsons' guru Matt Groening and his team pull out all the stops for the show's annual Halloween episode. Staying true to tradition, this year's Treehouse of Horror XIII will feature three separate stories. In the first story, Homer creates clones of himself to do the housework, but one of them lops the head off of Ned Flanders by accident. In the second story Billy the Kid comes back to life to campaign for gun control in an attempt to take over the town. Finally, the third story has Homer discovering The Island of Dr. Hibbert, complete with a half-human, half-animal species. Treehouse of Horror XIII airs Nov. 3 on Fox.
Film producer Sidney Pink, considered the father of the feature-length 3-D movie by many, died Saturday at his home in Pompano Beach, Fla., at the age of 86, The Associated Press reports. Pink produced more than 50 films including the 3-D film Bwana Devil, about British railway workers in Kenya who fall prey to two man-eating lions.
Iranian film director Bahman Qobadi, whose film Marooned in Iraq won the Chicago International Film Festival's Gold Plaque, did not accept the prize to protest the U.S. government's decision not to issue him a visa to collect the award. Qobadi told Reuters Wednesday that art should be respected and not influenced by politics. Earlier this month Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami also failed to obtain a visa to attend the New York Film Festival. Washington has labeled the country as part of an "axis of evil," making it harder for Iranians to obtain visas.
The WB will pick up a new version of MacGyver produced by Paramount Network Television. The show, according to Variety, will focus on MacGyver's nephew and feature a brand-new cast of characters. The show is set to premiere in 2003.
Caroline Rhea, host of The Caroline Rhea Show, is asking viewers to help plan her wedding. Through an interactive news segments, Rhea asks viewers questions such as what color her dress should be, what kind of cake she should serve. Viewers can log on to the show's Web site to vote, and results will be announced the following day.
British rock band Muse has won the battle of the names with Celine Dion. Muse had threatened to take legal action against the Canadian singer if she used the word "Muse" to title her three-year, 600-show Las Vegas engagement that starts next March. Dion's publicist Francine Chaloult told Jam! Showbiz that "Muse" was just one of 30 titles considered for the Vegas show but had not been selected as the one they're going with.
Simon Fuller's 19 Recordings Limited has signed American Idol finalist Tamyra Gray. Billboard.com reports the label is expected to release Gray's debut single in December, with a full album due next year, before the second season of American Idol.
Alternative country musician Ryan Adams is finding out it sucks to have a name similar to '80s rocker Bryan Adams. When an audience member jokingly yelled out a request for the Bryan Adams hit, "Summer of '69" at a recent Ryan Adams concert in Nashville, Tenn., the irate singer swore, ordered the house lights on, paid the concertgoer $30 as a refund for the show and ordered him to leave. But the manager for Ryman Auditorium apologized to the fan on his way out and let him back in--$30 richer.