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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Phew! They're finally over. The Academy Awards sure felt like a marathon this year. With about three too many montages honoring any and everything in movies (I think there was even an ode to sticky movie theater floors), a band that seemed really trigger shy about playing off some of the longer speeches (which is a good thing and a bad thing), and the many musical performances, the Oscars stretched all the way into early Monday for those of us on the east coast. The one saving grace was Ellen DeGeneres who more than capably handled the proceedings. Here's what we thought of her various gags during the show.
The MonologueWhile Seth McFarlane layed on the theatrics in such thick globs for his monologue last year, Ellen DeGeneres took more of a classic route. The Oscar hosting veteran was sitting right in her comfort zone, flicking off nuggets of wit with ease and showing the world that she's definitely an old pro at this. Some of the best jokes included YELLING AT JUNE SQUIBB, insisting that she wouldn't bring up Jennifer Lawrence's mishap with a traffic cone before the show, and a 12 Years a Slave gag that really woke up anyone whose attention started to drift towards the end of the opening. Ellen delivered an self-assured and funny monologue that walked a fine line between gentle ribbing and hard hitting jokes. She wasn't wearing the kid gloves, but she wasn't pulling her punches either. Grade: A- (Sub-Tina/Amy, but good)
The Pizza GagIn what was the longest gag of the night, Ellen delivered a delightfully absurd routine about ordering pizza that ran through the entire show. Towards the beginning of the broadcast, DeGeneres asked the audience if they wanted to split a pie in what we thought was just a one-off joke. But later on in the show, the pizza actually arrived with Ellen and a delivery boy handing out slices to the denizens of Hollywood. It turns out that stuffy award shows really makes you hungry, and the audience seemed pretty ravenous, grabbing at the slices like pizza was some kind of foreign and novel concept to them all, designer dresses and tuxes be damned. (If you listened closely, you could hear Vera Wang screaming in the distance.) The bit returned for one last time when Ellen grabbed Pharell's mountie hat and askd for everyone to chip in. Harvey Weinstien forked over 200 bucks, but Brad Pitt could only manage a measly 20 dollars (get it together, Brad, you're on TV) and Lupita Nyong'o shared some lip gloss (that's Academy Award-winning lip gloss now). The joke might have overstayed it's welcome, but who knew celebrities would get so excited over pizza? They really are just like us!Grade: B+
Lottery Tickets for LosersAfter the Best Supporting Oscar was awarded to Jared Leto, Ellen wandered over to Bradley Cooper and gave him two whole lottery tickets as a consolation prize for losing the award, and a quarter (which she needs back) to use on the scratchers. The lottery ticket joke was a quick little diddy of a gag that fit snugly in with the theme of the rest of her show. We have exclusive info through some inside channels that Cooper reportedly won a "try again next time" from the tickets. Grade: B
The Selfie Tweeted 'Round the WorldWhen Ellen says she's going to take the most retweeted selfie ever, she's not joking around. The host enlisted Merryl Streep to take a selfie with her, which led to pretty much every actor in Hollywood crowding around a single phone to get into the shot. After some awkward jostling, and negotiating on who should actually take the picture (Bradley Cooper had the longest arms) the pic was finally taken and shared with the Internet, where it quickly broke Twitter. It was Streep's first tweet, and it dismantled an entire social network. The woman does have 18 Academy Award nominations, so I guess we should have expected her to be the best tweeter ever. #StreeptweetGrade: A-
Everything ElseEllen was never away from the screen for too long during the show, constantly popping up for a quick joke or two in between the awards and the near infinite amount of montages. She offered some quick riffs about her slew of outfits, bantered with bemused celebrities, and filled her time on screen with various non sequiturs that received good chuckles over just how cute yet slightly bizarre they all were. Some of them had us scratching our heads (exactly why was she holding a guitar while introducing Kate Hudson and Jason Sudeikis?) but on the whole, most of them worked wonders.Grade: B
OverallEllen hosted a fun and slightly off-kilter yet stripped down Oscars telecast that lacked the theatrics. She was consistent bright spot in an awards ceremony that went on a bit too long for comfort. Ellen had an easy confidence about the whole ordeal, and the bits didn't feel too forced or too self involved. Best of all, she made the awards fun for the celebrities in the audience, and actually made them relatable to those of us watching at home. Who can resist the allure of a selfie or a greasy slice of pizza? Not you or me, and certainly not Brad Pitt or Kevin Spacey. It wasn't outrageous like say, Seth McFarlane's gig last year, but it was certainly classic Ellen.Grade: B+
Amanda Bynes might currently spend her days lusting after Drake on Twitter, but her taste was much different just five years ago. Though it's now just a footnote in her cheek-studded existence, the actress raised eyebrows in 2008 for dating Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who is 12 years her senior.
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Get ready for some Oz overload. Joining Robert Downey Jr's Great And Powerful Oz; Drew Barrymore's Oz sequel, Surrender Dorothy; the animated Dorothy Of Oz; the vague Polish Bros. film that's supposedly in the works; and Todd McFarlane's dark and steampunky reimagining for Warner Bros., is Wicked, Universal Studio's adaptation of the Broadway musical. Wicked, which focuses on a young Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda, seems like the most obvious choice for an Oz spin-off, since the sparkly musical has made millions of dollars from the ever-generous teenage girls audience. Universal finally seems to be getting the ball rolling, however, and have announced 4 potential directors: Rob Marshall (Chicago), Ryan Murphy (Glee), James Mangold (Walk The Line) and JJ Abrams (Star Trek). Each director has met with producer Marc Platt, writer Winnie Holzman (of My So-Called Life) and songwriter Stephen Schwartz to discuss the film.
The Wicked production is considering an unusual variety of directors for the musical. The obvious choice is Marshall, who's known for making successful and epic musicals (ignoring Nine, of course). The strangest candidate is Abrams, who is usually known for his genre fare, though he did write a musical episode for Fringe this season. Murphy's also an obvious choice, since Glee's staged Wicked hit Defying Gravity and and had original stars Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on the show in recurring roles. Mangold has a very diverse filmography, from Girl, Interrupted to Kate and Leopold, but he has some musical experience with Walk The Line.
With the complete saturation of Oz films going into production, it's inevitable that some are going to get pushed to the wayside. Since Wicked has a built-in fanbase and a well known-name, so it's the only Oz project that I think we'll definitely see at some point.