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 genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
After a long struggle to complete the editing on Swept Away, a remake of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 film starring wife Madonna, Guy Ritchie is going back to doing what he does best--the gangster flick. Between warding off rumors of Swept Away being threatened with straight-to-video purgatory and helming his crusader epic The Siege of Malta, the director has managed to squeeze a new film into his schedule. According to Productionweekly.com, Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn have signed on to take JJ Connolly's novel Layer Cake to the big screen. The story is about a young man's attempt to disengage himself from London's gangster underworld, but a last job threatens to spoil his plans. The book is riddled with the same type of rhyming slang used in Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, so expect plenty of subtitles. Swept Away is scheduled for release Oct. 11.
His own record label, a clothing line, two restaurants. If you thought Sean "P. Diddy" Combs had it all, think again. According to The Associated Press, the hip-hop entrepreneur has expanded into the polling business with his own market research company. Blue Mindset, a division of Combs' company Blue Flame Marketing and Advertising, will release a national survey each week on a different topic. Combs' enterprises do an estimated $300 million in annual business.
Steve-O, a regular on MTV's Jackass, turned himself in to police after returning to Louisiana, where he faced charges of obscenity and of staging a stunt that injured a teenager in a nightclub, the AP reports. Steve-O, whose real name is Stephen Glover, allegedly exposed himself on a stage in Houma, La., last month and took part in a stunt in which a bouncer slammed a 19-year-old on his head, knocking him unconscious. Glover, 28, was booked on counts of obscenity and accessory to second-degree battery, but was later released on bail.
MDP Worldwide has greenlighted 26-year-old filmmaker Greg Marcks' 11:14, a story of seemingly unrelated incidents recounted in reverse chronology, all converging in a car accident that occurs at that time, Variety reports. The ensemble cast boasts Hilary Swank, Colin Hanks and Rachael Leigh Cook, with Patrick Swayze and Barbara Hershey in final negotiations to star. Swank was so impressed by the script that she agreed to serve as an executive producer on the project.
Former James Bond star Timothy Dalton has signed on to play Brendan Fraser's father in Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Variety reports. The film, which blends live action with animation, also stars Jenna Elfman and Heather Locklear.
USA Cable Entertainment is developing a remake of the 1976 series The Bionic Woman. In the original series--a spin-off of The Six Million Dollar Man--Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) gets bionically reconstructed after a near-fatal skydiving accident, leaving her with superhuman powers. Sommers, you may recall, was the one-time fiancée of Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors). No word on whether the series will include her bionic German shepherd, Max.
Friends star Lisa Kudrow said in an interview for the season premiere of Oxygen's Conversations From The Edge with Carrie Fisher that she did not know if the upcoming ninth season would actually be the final season of the show. "You look around and you see that a lot of reasons shows finish is [that] the ratings are really bad. We were No. 1 for the first time ever in our eighth season."
Fans of the late legend Elvis Presley gathered Thursday to pay tribute on the 25th anniversary of his death, with thousands lighting candles in the nightlong procession past his grave, Reuters reports. The street in front of Presley's Graceland mansion was closed to traffic, with an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 fans assembled. Presley, who died Aug. 15, 1977 at the age of 42, is buried next to the mansion's swimming pool, along with his parents and paternal grandmother.