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 mood was somber and celebrity little more than a means to an end when tonight's telethon, America: A Tribute to Heroes, was shown on every major network and most of the major cable channels. There was no audience applauding; there was no audience, period, except those at home. There were no introductions; that wasn't the point, as celebrity speakers made clear throughout the night by telling the stories of the many heroes who lost their lives and saved the lives of others.
To commemorate Sept. 11, a day that could easily be thought of as "the day the music died," talented and famous faces came together for an evening of songs, stories, and yes, the occasional call for contributions.
The speeches tonight came in all varieties, all impassioned, some tearful, others awkward. A clearly nervous Jim Carrey spoke of Winston Churchill, then told the story of heroes who saved a woman by carrying her down 68 flights of stairs. George Clooney spoke of John Perry, a New York City policeman who'd filed his retirement papers the morning of Sept. 11, but heard of the tragedy and went to help. He never came back, Clooney said.
Cameron Diaz told stories of teachers who saved children at schools near the World Trade Center. Robin Williams talked of a hero who'd saved lives in the 1993 bombing and again this time, only last Tuesday he didn't make it out himself. Jimmy Smits spoke of police heroes, "cops who are willing to sacrifice their lives in an instant, for people they do not know." Julia Roberts spoke tearfully of heroes at the Pentagon, and the flying of the flag and the applause that greeted it.
Kelsey Grammer, who lost a co-worker aboard one of the flights that crashed, quoted words of strength from John F. Kennedy. Clint Eastwood talked gruffly of a day that would live in infamy.
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Calista Flockhart, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ray Romano, Jane Kaczmarek, Sela Ward, Chris Rock and Dennis Franz also spoke.
With some of the biggest names in music on the bill, America: A Tribute to Heroes was bound to be good. Bruce Springsteen opened with a candlelit acoustic performance of "My City of Ruins." Willie Nelson closed the two-hour event with "God Bless America," backed by an all-star cast of celebs who had been manning the phones all night. Does it get any better than that? Cut the album; give the proceeds to charity. We're there.
Of course, there were those who pointed out the reason for the event in their songs. Stevie Wonder, who followed The Boss, sang, "Love's in Need of Love Today," with the rather pointed line, "Don't delay, send yours in right away." Wyclef Jean's version of "Redemption Song" was peppered with cries of "Brooklyn" and "New York City" and "we've got to full-fill that book," which he sang while pointing to the phone bank.
The much-maligned Mariah Carey sang the only song she could under the circumstances, "Hero," of which she said, "When I wrote this song," she said, "it had a lot of meaning for me, and tonight it has even more meaning." Well said.
U2 appeared from London. Billy Joel tossed off a powerful rendition of "New York State of Mind" with a firefighter's helmet perched atop the piano. Faith Hill, Enrique Iglasias, Alicia Keys, a bearded and shaggy Tom Petty (with requisite Heartbreakers), a cowboy-hatted Neil Young performed as well. The Dixie Chicks were spot on, and Dave Matthews did an impressive solo acoustic tune.
Jon Bon Jovi did "Living on a Prayer"; Sting dedicated his performance of "Fragile" to a friend who died in the attacks. Sheryl Crow performed, and Paul Simon sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, James Woods, Meg Ryan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Ben Stiller, Penelope Cruz, Danny DeVito, Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Benicio Del Toro, Cindy Crawford, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Brad Pitt, Sally Field and other famous faces were seen answering phones at the telethon bank or singing backing vocals on the finale of "God Bless America."
The stars also took the time to make a point about the evils of racism and hate. Several Arab children spoke of the tragedy and its affect on their lives, then Will Smith appeared on stage, with Muhammad Ali, whom he'll be portraying in the forthcoming Ali.
"It was hate, not religion that motivated the attacks," Smith said.
Then Ali spoke. "I'm here because of the troublin' thing that happened the other day. I'm a Muslim, and I've been a Muslim for 20 years…. I think people should know the real truth about Islam. You know me, I'm a boxer…and a man of truth, and I wouldn't be here defending Islam if it was really like the terrorists made it look…. Islam is peace."
Later in the show, Lucy Liu said "America's greatest enemy is hatred itself."
The telethon was Hollywood's effort to generate contributions for the September 11th Telethon Fund, which is administered by the United Way and guaranteed to be distributed 100% to the victims of the terrorist attacks on America last week and their families.
Finally, something to report from ShoWest!
Stars (lots of 'em) came out at noon today to do their time at the New Line/Fine Line luncheon, hyping (what else?) upcoming New Line/Fine Line flicks. The event, held at the multimedia-readied, projection-screen-laden Paris Ballroom, featured celebs prancing down a catwalk for all to see (if you could see), sitting down at their designated tables and, then, eating!
Yes, this is what passes for excitement at a movie-theater-owners trade show. Did we mention that not one of the stars said a single word?
No, we're not complaining. We're just worried about the talents. You know, they've got egos.
Anyway, here's a rundown of the spotted celebs:
Adam Sandler: Single-handedly brought the level of formality and decorum way down with his ultra-casual attire of Adidas tee, a zipper sweater and denims. There to hype his new frat-boy comedy "Little Nicky."
Patricia Arquette: Peroxide-bleached blonde. We couldn't really catch a good look at her face because her facial skin tone and her hair sorta bled into each other under the spotlight. (Another "Little Nicky" pusher.)
Jennifer Lopez: Yes, she still makes movies. She was here for the thriller "The Cell." Well, all right, she actually wasn't here here. Lopez has got the cushiest gig out of everyone. Instead of having to actually show up at this thing in person, she was teletransmitted via video. (Must be all those court-related matters that were tying her down.)
Dennis Quaid: A member of the "Frequency" contingent (the upcoming fantasy/thriller), he was the first person to be introduced, and we didn't know which way he'd be strolling down the catwalk. So to make a long explanation short, we, um, sort of didn't really see him.
Ali Larter: Female co-star of the studio's newest Gen-Next horror flick "Final Destination," this highly touted newcomer looked like she could be any 18- to 21-year-old from anywhere.
Devon Sawa: Male version of the above. (Conveniently, also featured in "Final Destination.")
Jimmy Smits: Well, you know, it's Jimmy Smits.
Jon Seda: The real-life boxer (coming soon to a theater near you as an aspiring boxer in "Price of Glory" with Smits) was doing the old one-two uppercut, right jab dance all the way to the table.
Vince Vaughn: Lopez's "Cell" co-star looked disheveled in that "Swingers" way. Hold on, isn't he always though?
Melina Kanakaredes: Er, we looked somewhere else again. But we did catch that the "Providence" lady is going to star opposite Robert De Niro in the thriller "Fifteen Minutes."
Omar Epps: The "Love and Basketball" star looking noticeably irate.
In other ShoWest happenings:
COMING (MAIN) ATTRACTION: As promised, the studio delivered promotional footage from that fan-boy fantasy also known as "The Lord of the Rings." More of a short making-of film rather than a true trailer, the reel alternated clips from the (still-in-the-making) epic film with interviews with director Peter Jackson and actors Sean Astin and Elijah Wood. And judging from the applause, this film is certainly one to watch for in the end of 2001.
OTHER TRAILERS THAT BUZZED: "Thirteen Days," the Kevin Costner vehicle about the Cuban missile crisis and Sandler's "Little Nicky."
TRAILERS WE LIKED, REGARDLESS OF THE BUZZ: (1) "The Cell." Vaughn plays a cop, Lopez plays the serial killer he's chasing. Other than that, there's no logical way we could piece together a coherent story line from the trailer. That said, the clip was still a snazzy and stylish piece that is at once perverse and surreal; (2) "State and Main." Now we really don't know what this one's about. But an auspicious ensemble cast certainly compensates for it. The David Mamet comedy reunites P.T. Anderson crewmates Philip Seymour Hoffman and William H. Macy, as well as piling on Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker.
OTHER NOTABLE SNEAKS: "Rush Hour 2" (a rearrangement of film clips from the 1998 original, save for a new voice-over and some new titles); "Bones" (an extremely minimal trailer for a horror movie that was so deliberately minimal it reminded us of another little horror flick name of, um, "The Blair Witch Something or Other"); and, "Town and Country," Warren Beatty's long, long, long delayed marital comedy, with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.
The "Town and Country" clips were uncensored. And by uncensored, we specifically mean the F-bomb that co-star Garry Shandling dropped at the very end of the trailer -- a phrase that you can bet won't make it out to the public come actual release time. (At least not in trailer form.)
MORE TRAILERS!OK. By now you're probably thinking (hoping) that we've run out of trailers. Wrong.
Eleven more came our way via the Miramax shindig this evening. To make it fast and painless, the most notable sneaks included: the slasher film send-up "Scary Movie; an anachronistic adaptation of "Hamlet" with Ethan Hawke; "Boys and Girls," a teen flick with Freddie Prinze Jr.; "Birthday Girl," starring Nicole Kidman as a Russian woman with a past; and "Bounce," featuring ex-lovers Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck as lovers.
But really the coolest thing seen at the Miramax preview was the trailer for "The Yards." Mixing old-school and new-school bad boys James Caan, Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix, the film looks to be operating heavily on the generic codes of Mafia flicks.
OK, no more trailer talk. Until tomorrow.
WHERE'S HARVEY? Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein (a notable no-show at the Golden Globes and Sundance) was not the only notable MIA at tonight's Miramax shindig. There was also a total absence of Miramax stars to promote any of the Miramax films (OK, trailers) discussed above. No word on why.
WEDNESDAY'S EXPECTED STAR SIGHTINGS: The early sked-line on the Sony luncheon Wednesday reads a little something like this: Sandra Bullock, Brooke Shields, Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Shue, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Bill Murray. Experience tells us that they'll be doing pretty much the same dog-and-pony show as the stars at today's New Line/Fine Line luncheon.
PLUGGING AWAY: For most folks at ShoWest this morning, Hollywood was not merely a click away on the Internet but right there at their breakfast table. The day's events were kicked off with a portly breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes) at the majestic Champagne Ballroom hosted by our very own Hollywood.com. Representing the entertainment dot.com were Hollywood.com Chairman and CEO Mitchell Rubenstein and President Laurie S. Silvers, among others. The hands-down highlight was the sneak preview of a Hollywood.com theatrical trailer titled "Easy."