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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SEXY POST-STABBING SHOWER! But before we get to that, let's recap the rest of this week's The Following.
The farmhouse murder crew assembles in the basement to figure out what to do with the poor store clerk Paul wooed/kidnapped last week. Emma, naturally, suggests their only option is to kill her. Jacob squirms a bit. Paul reads the line "do you like pancakes? Oh that's right, you'll be dead. They've got a wacky Three's Company energy that really counterbalances all the bondage and murder.
Back at Claire's house (which is sort of The FBI's second command station these days), Claire demands to know when they're going to find her son. Remember last week's home video, Hardy? They're teaching Joe Jr. how to be a killer! They're indoctrinating him into THE FOLLOWING. But before you can say "helicopter parent," Hardy's attention is diverted by an even more pressing issue: Maggie has kidnapped his Williamsburg-based restauranteur sister, Jenny. And she's going to make her eat non-local.
…Actually she's probably going to knife her or something, but that's splitting hairs. In the wake of her husband's death, Maggie has ditched Carroll's prescribed narrative (or as she jokes, gone "off-book," LOL) for a little personal vengeance. And as we learn from Carroll himself, she was a killer long before joining Team Follower: under the name Margaret Schuler, she stabbed her way through the midwest. Chick's got skillz! Which makes Hardy even more hot to find her and save his sister. Joey? You've gotta hang tight, kid. We'll get to you during March Sweeps, promise.
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Super-smooth, Hardy offers a "something suddenly came up" to Parker as he bolts for Brooklyn. But he won't be alone — Weston (who is not in fact named "Iceman" on this show, convenient as that would be for me) tags along, eager to learn more about Hardy's past and probably save the day when all hope seems lost. But in the meantime, just shut up, dude, Bacon needs some zzz's.
Back at the farmhouse, Emma and Paul continue their frosty dance. That is until Paul drops a bomb that upsets her more than any Bravo marathon he and Jacob may have shared undercover: Jacob's never killed anyone. WHU-WHAT?!? And you're hanging with Team Follower, No. 1 Kill Crew in the Northeast?!? Emma's heart is broken. Love means never having to lie about whether you murdered then disposed of someone, right? To say nothing of the time a few years ago when, in a graphic game of Never Have I Ever, Jacob claimed to have tossed a fresh kill in the river. You're a TAYLOR SWIFT SONG WAITING TO HAPPEN, YOU LYING BOY.
NEXT: It's Flashback Time!...
Hardy's about to spend the rest of the episode tied up on a gurney while someone else talks, so luckily we're given a few fun flashbacks to his post-Carroll time in BK. Dining out with Claire, sharing secrets in bed (his firefighter brother died in 9/11; his parents are dead; everyone's dead) — it's basically Girls, only Hannah's an alcoholic and super into Edgar Allen Poe.
(Sidebar: ALCOHOLISM. Can you dramatize someone's dependance on booze — or any substance for that matter — without making it the complete focus of the story? Flight tried valiantly but wound up a two hour testimonial for AA, and the long history of "Very Special Episodes" suggests it's rarely, at least on network television, a subject that can just be treated "as is." Clearly The Following is trying to treat Ryan's alcoholism as another wrinkle in his larger serial killer-hunting story, but every time the subject is raised you can still feel the episode grinding momentarily to a halt.)
Returning to the present, Hardy enters his sister's restaurant, puts on a blindfold next to a "put this on" sign, and is soon greeted by Maggie. She does her villain thing, explaining how and why she kidnapped Jenny, before clocking Hardy in the head.
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Just like Paul suggested, Jacob is having a difficult time readying himself to kill the store clerk. She pleads with him. If he lets her go, she won't tell anyone. Hell, she'll even bleed a little to convince Paul and Emma he really did kill her. We cut to commercial with the knife at her throat, but, I mean, you've seen the episode — he unties her and urges her to make a run for it. It's not long before Emma and Paul cotton to Jacob's actions, though, and soon they're chasing her across the property. They catch her. Surround her like a hunted boar. And in another DEEPLY UNPLEASANT SCENE, stab her a few times.
Don't worry! She's not dead. (But she probably will be by the end of next episode.)
Maggie tells Hardy that her foster dad wore a pacemaker much like the one in Hardy's chest, which she learned to manipulate (fatally so) with magnets. And so Bill Nye sets to work in the restaurant, disrupting his pacemaker as she goes on about "real love" she shared with her husband, the dearly departed fire guy. Then Weston makes like any good character-cum-plot device and saves the day, shooting Maggie to death.
Finally what you've been waiting this whole recap for — as a dirtied Emma and Paul dance less frostily around each other in the shower, washing themselves off from their recent hunt. "It's not like we're gonna get it on," says Emma. BUT OF COURSE YOU WILL. I just like when characters are able to overcome their differences. Jacob discovers the clerk re-tied to her chair in the basement, his effort to set her free totally shot. And now Emma will know what a loser he is! He finds her in the shower with Paul. But rather than freak out and kill him, he takes this new union of souls as an opportunity to get wet with the people he loves. It's the closest thing to a beautiful moment we've seen on this show!
That is, until Hardy heads back to Claire's. Those of you familiar with show creator Kevin Williamson know that in addition to his horror and thriller work, he's also a master of teenage melodrama — most notably Dawson's Creek. (Which I've never seen. Sorry!) And if there's anything that screams "teen melodrama," it's swelling indie music to underscore to a moment in which two characters talk about love. In flashback, Hardy explains to Jenny that he's a "constant reminder of the worst time in [Claire's] life." "But you love her!" she admonishes. In the present, Claire begs Hardy to stay. But he can't! He's committed to his work! Hardy leaves, the music reaches a crescendo, and camera tracks him like Dawson — all sad resignation and emotional vulnerability, walking away from his lover and into a world beset by madness and Poe masks. SCENE.
There are two shows in The Following vying for dominance: one's the often disturbing procedural we tracked last week; the other is Dawson's Creek with butcher knives. It's a weird combination! But one that, properly modulated (and I should note I'm being totally serious right now), could actually be among the more interesting concepts on television. Imagine it: late into an all-night stake-out, Hardy is ready to throw in the towel. An incoming text reads "OPEN YOUR WINDOW." Hardy panics, grabs his gun. But it's just Claire, smiling as she holds a bottle of wine outside the passenger door. "Bad Religion" by Frank Ocean starts playing as they clink glasses. Three hundred feet away someone is probably being murdered. Y/N? Please tell me I'm onto something in the comments.
[Image Credit: Nicole Rivelli/FOX]
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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.