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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Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Seventeen years ago, Harrison Ford grumbled four simple words that defined a genre, a demographic, and a country: "Get off my plane." In a pre-9/11 world, there was no shortage of jingoistic glee in a movie like Air Force One, in which a man's man American president doled out justice to a militia of Russian loyalist terrorists who made the silly mistake of attempting to hijack his flight home from Moscow. In 2014, we don't have the luxury of facing a plotline like this with reckless merriment. There's a damp gravity to the premise behind movies like Non-Stop, which in another time would have been nothing more than Taken on a Plane. But rigidly conscious of the connotations that attach to a story about a hijacking of a civilian international flight into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, Non-Stop doesn't play too fast and loose. It still plays, and has some good fun doing so, but carefully.
From the getgo, we're anchored into the grim narrative of Liam Neeson's U.S. Air Marshall Bill Marks, who settles his demons with a healthy spoonful of whiskey. A dutiful officer even when liquored up, Marks eyeballs every nameless face in London's Heathrow Airport, silently introducing the bevvy of characters who'll come into play later on. After takeoff, Marks finds himself on the unwitting prowl for the anonymous party who's attempting to take down the red-eye through a series of manipulative text messages, well-timed threats, and clandestine killings. Chatty passenger Julianne Moore and flight attendant Michelle Dockery join Marks in his efforts to identify the mysterious criminal before the entire aircraft falls to his or her whims. So less Taken, more Murder, She Wrote.
Our roundup of suspects challenges our (and their) preconceived notions, and quite laughably — most vocal among Neeson's fellow passengers are a white beta-male school teacher (Scoot McNairy), a black computer engineer with an attitude of entitlement (Nate Parker), a softspoken Middle Eastern surgeon whose headwear gets more than a few focal shots (Omar Metwally), a middle-aged white businessman whose latest account landed him more than your house is worth (Frank Deal), an irate black youngster draped in irreverence (Corey Hawkins), and a white, bald, machismo-howling New York cop who secretly accepts his gay brother (Corey Stoll). Just a few talking heads short of Do the Right Thing, Non-Stop manages to goof on each man's (notice that they're all men — Moore, Dockery, and a barely-in-the-movie Lupita Nyong’o are kept shy of the action for most of the film) distaste for and distrust of one another as they each try to sidle up to, or undermine the harried Marks.
Non-Stop plays an interesting game with its characters and its audience, simultaneously painting the ignorance of its characters with a thick coat of comedy while pointing its finger straight out at us with accusations that we, too, thought it was whoever we just learned it wasn't, and for all the wrong reasons. "Shame on you!" Non-Stop chides, adding, "But let's keep going, this is fun!"
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It is fun — that's the miraculous thing. Without any "Get off my plane"s or "Yippee ki yay"s, Non-Stop keeps its action genre silliness in check (okay, there is a moment involving an airborne gun that'll institute some serious laugh-cheers), investing all of its good time in the game of claustrophobic Clue that we can't help but enjoy. It sacrifices some of its charm in a heavy-handed third act, tipping to one side of what was a pretty impressive balancing act up until that point. But its falter is not one that drags down the movie entirely. Fun and excitement are restored, sincerity is maintained, and even a few moments of sensitivity creep their way through. We might not live in a world of President Harrison Fords any longer, but Air Marshall Liam Neesons could actually be a step up.
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You Better Belieb It: ABC is currently developing a single-camera sitcom that would be based on the life of mega-pop star Justin Bieber. What’s even more surprising is this is not the first time the alphabet network has attempted this plan. The untitled family comedy is under consideration for next fall’s TV season and would center on the teen icon’s awkward years before becoming famous. [TV Guide]
More Casting Changes on The Mindy Project: FOX's freshman comedy has already cut several characters, but it's adding another. Beth Grant, who played grumpy nurse Beverly in one episode, has been promoted to series regular. She'll join fellow newbie Mary Grill, who was recently cast in a recurring role (with the potential for growth) as Mindy's college friend. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Happy Endings Gets in the Game: Former Saturday Night Live cast member Abby Elliott is joining another primetime comedy for a guest spot after popping up on 2 Broke Girls in December. She'll appear in one episode of Happy Endings as a potential love interest for Max -- that's right, the gang's gay friend. Don't worry, there's an explanation for his sudden change in sexual preference: Elliott's character, Katie, has awesome tickets to Chicago Bulls games, prompting the basketball-loving Max to try something new. [Entertainment Weekly]
Dane Cook is Not a Total Loser: NBC is giving the crude comedian another opportunity to impress. Cook’s midseason comedy Next Caller was cut from the NBC lineup just four episodes into production because the network was unhappy with its “creative direction.” Now the peacock network has decided to stay in business Cook and inked a new deal with the actor-comedian to develop a new starring vehicle for him. Fingers crossed this one actually makes it to air. [Deadline]
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It is a sad, sad day, as we sit here with puffy eyes and struggle at our desks while we try to figure out just how soon we can get out of this forsaken job and hit someplace with alcohol. It may be a bar, so that we can toast with our friends and hope that the revelry will help us forget our sorry lives, or it may be at home, with a glass – no, bottle – of white whine while we sigh on the couch and remember our forgotten friend. Probably the latter. That is what Kim would have wanted. That is how Kim would like to go out, with our tears moistening our cheeks and us pouring out a bottle of white wine over our TV set as it sparks and explodes in a ball of smoke. It doesn't matter if you ruin it. You don't need your TV anymore. Kim Zolciak is no longer going to be on the Real Hair Manglers of Mario Kart Palace. There is nothing left to watch.
No siree Bob, Kim has got the check. She is doneski. She does not pass go, she does not collecte $200. She is making like a tree and going. She is not letting the door hit here where the sun don't shine. Goodbye, Kim. Goodbye. We have watched your weave grow from a tiny seedling to an immense beanstalk growing out of your head and traveling up to the sky where a giant named Kroy lives and where treasure awaits you for the rest of your days. Now, of course, this was the big event of last night's episode, but before we can get to Fight Brunch, we have to slog through some other details first.
There wasn't any moving this episode, which was a blessing, but there was my second least favorite Real Housewives convention: talking about planning. They're not planning a trip, they're talking about planning a trip. When they actually do the planning, there has been so much talking about the planning that when all these little grenades sit down around some Brioche French Toast and Egg Whites Benedict (which sounds vaguely racist) everything just explodes and the shrapnel scars all look horrible when they're sitting around in their bikinis laughing about what a great time they're having while they forget all about the planning when they're actually on the trip.
So, yes, lots of planning talk. NeNe and Gregg go over to see Cynthia and Peter and they talk about the trip. Then Cynthia puts on her smart lady glasses and has brunch with Kandi and they talk about planning. Then Kandi and Phaedra go to some weird store called Box Wood and talk about planning and then Kandi gives Phaedra some "Kegel Balls," which are little spheres that you place in the vagina and hold onto so that your netherworld gets super nice and tight. They do all this in a store called Box Wood, because they cannot write a double entendre between the two. They are strictly single entendre, but two single entendres does not add up to a double entendre. So we just get Box and Wood, each standing on their own, unexplored. Sorry, back to planning planning planning. Blah. Nothing interesting happened in any of these discussions that wasn't worn on Cynthia's face. Does she think she's Spike Lee in a Nike commercial or something? Has anyone told Cynthia what year it is? Does she still care about what happens to Jennifer Love Hewitt?
There were a couple of interesting meetings however, Portia, a pile of rags brought to life by the wizard Gargamel to capture Smurfs but then turned to the side of good, finally gallumphed out of the forest and married her husband Carvell, who is a Cookie Puss that melted and then was brought to life as a man made of ice cream. They are in sweet, sweet love and they make sweet, sweet love on the nightly because one of the rags that Gargamel threw in the pile was the one that kept next to his bed for "private time" and, well, that made Portia into a total sex fiend. So they're banging away, but they can't have a baby. That's because there was something wrong with Portia's lady parts. She goes to the doctor who waves a magic wand and then Portia's lady parts work again. Oh, miraculous day!
Portia's approach to motherhood seems to be that of an 8-year-old's holding a doll by one hand as the rest of it drags through the dirt. "I want to have four babies, two boys and two girls because that is just what my mommy had and I want to be a mommy just like my mommy. But I want to have twins, because they are awesome and have super powers and I will name one twin Olsen and one twin Doublemint because that is what you name twins. I only want to have babies two times and then I won't have to get fat." This is where Portia holds her head down and pouts in a completely adorable way, with her twisted pigtails hanging down around her face just so.
Not only is Portia a child, she's also kind of stupid, but she's like awesome stupid. I can't quite explain this Portia character other than the fact that she is blissfully vacant and no one seems to want to correct her or help her on her way. She meets with Cynthia and NeNe to talk about the charity she works for and says that her charity needs help 265 days a year. Now, I wish it were the case that the charity was fully staffed with volunteers for 100 days of the year and now they just need help with holidays and weekends and Tuesdays (because no one wants to give their time freely when all those Fox sitcoms are on) and that is what she meant by 265 days a year. But no. Portia does not know how many days there are in a year. She does not know many things. She does not know that Christmas is always on the same date. She does not know the boiling point of water. She does not know about exchange rates. She does not know how to bookmark a webpage. She does not know that eating yams will not give her twins, even if they did studies in Africa. She does not know that Bethpage is a town on Long Island and not a girl from her third grade class called Beth Page. She does not know that a cold cut sandwich isn't called that because it is sliced in half and not warm. She doesn't know any of these things. She is a ball of rags that runs around singing "La la lala la la, la lala la la," which is a song she learned from the Smurfs before she turned against Gargamel.
Speaking of evil sorcerers, Kernya Moo-ah is certainly possessed by the devil. Remember that story she told a few weeks past where she was hiking down a trail and a black snake crossed her path? I think when that happened an evil spirit wafted up from that animal and entered her body through her nose and has completely taken over. She's like that nun on American Horror Story where one minute she is being perfectly nice and sweet, but you know it is totally fake, like that hint of artificial sweetener you get when drinking the clear Gatorade. Then the next minute she has black pupils and she's speaking curses in Aramaic and is floating in the air and raising her arms into the sky over a virgin chained to the alter. That is what is going on Kernya Moo-ah.
We see this when she meets up with Phaedra and Apollo. She brings along her man Walt and then just shamelessly flirts with Apollo in front of their respective significant others. In Apollo's defense, he doesn't play into it, but it is making everyone squirmy. Phaedra is sitting on her fists so she doesn't punch this bitch square in her face and Walt is just slumped over with his undershirt hanging out of his sherbert colored button down in a pose that says, "What you gonna do? I'm lucky she'll have me." And Kernya is all, "Damn, Apollo, you are foine!" which is a direct quote, more or less.
Well, the four of them are going to ride Go Karts and Kernya shows up in a dress and heels because that is exactly what you wear when you are about to squat down into an exposed car and race around a track in front of decent human beings. It's apparent that the evil spirit that resides in Kernya Moo-ah's body is a speed demon because as soon as she gets in that car she starts to freak out. "Aye Aye Aye," she rattles as she grimaces at the camera. "I don't need a seat belt. I feel the need. The need for Speed Demon!! Aye Aye Aye." She shows her fangs and looks at Phaedra with glowing eyes and she just turns up her shoulder at Kernya, hoping that she just has some gas or something. Then Kernya starts shouting, "I am so evil. I am so eevvvviiiillll. Aye Aye Aye!" She speeds off with a big cloud of dust behind her while Phedra just fans it out of her face and spits the grit out of the side of her car. Apollo races confidently and assuredly, like anyone with a body like his would. And then Walt, sad Towtruck Walter, pulls up the rear, going so slowly it's like little bursts of smoke are going to come busting out of his tailpipe at regular intervals trying to propel him along. He's still confused because there's not another vehicle trailing his on the way to the garage. He's not used to driving like this. He's used to picking up after the demolition derby. But Kernya, she is possessed by the devil. She crosses the finish line and hops out of the car and draws a pentagram on the pavement and the whole course bursts into fire and transports everyone to hell where they will have to sell their souls just to get a glass of water, just to get back to Atlanta. That is the hell that Kernya Moo-ah has wrought.
Speaking of Kernya Moo-ah, Kandi invited her to Planning Brunch and Cynthia Bailey got her face tied up so tight it almost swallowed one of her giant earrings that were made from the crystals of two dying stars that lived next to each other. Then Kernya was like, "Oh, you're going to Anguilla? I would like to go," and when no one said anything she said, "OK, well, I'm coming, and that's that. Read my contract!"
But this whole Planning Brunch thing was a mess. First of all Pheadra arrived with not only lilies but all the lilies in the damn valley and apologized to Cynthia for butt dialing her and talking shit and told her that her quote was taken out of context and she didn't mean anything negative and she was very sorry. You can say a lot of things about Pheadra, but she is always classy. I give her mad props for being up front and trying to make things better.
OK, so then everyone files in and they're talking about the trip and Kernya invites herself and then Kim, who is the last one there, starts hemming and hawing and saying she might not be able to make it. All that I learned from all the previous planning meetings was that they all planned their trip around Kim's schedule and had rearranged all their dates so that she and Kroy could join them. Kim is making all this noise about how she might not be able to go because she's so pregnant and her due date has moved around and she has to talk to her doctor and blah blah blah. But it's just Kim making excuses, as she has for the past two years. It's just like our other favorite Kim, Kim Richards, always showing up to a party late, leaving a party early, or bailing at the last minute. She just doesn't want to be around.
Then Kim says that she and Kroy are going on their own vacation while the rest of them are in Anguilla. That is it for everyone. Kim says, "Well, we could have kept it in the country. We could have gone to Miami or Destin..." Ha! Those are Kim's alternatives. Destin? Destin! Are they all going to ride together in a pick up and camp out at your aunt's trailer and then go to the Applebee's for dinner. Destin. NeNe is pissed off at, in the first time she's had an extended conversation with Kim, she lets her have it and lets Kim know that she is ungrateful and a liar. NeNe might have gone too far, but I'm on her team in this one.
Anyway, this is all bullshit. As the ladies say, if Kim had concerns she could have brought them up earlier. She knew how pregnant she would be, and she sent the dates saying when she could travel. She either should have sent real dates or sent her regrets. But no, she made everyone rearrange their lives to go on this company trip that is contractually obligated and now she is totally skipping out on it. And they all know it has nothing to do with pregnancy, it has to do with Kim being over it.
Yes, Kim is entirely over these women, she is done being on the show, she is done. She wants to go back to her townhouse that is crammed full of tacky furniture and nuzzle with her baby and let her daughters run around the house eating pizza and yelling, "Mom! Mom!" and not answering. That is what she wants. Last season I loved that Kim sort of gave up and was over it all, but she was still engaged with the group. She didn't want to mess with any of their fighting, but she would still go and be the voice of reason. She would be her fun self, which is all we ever wanted from Kim. Now... well, now she's just boring. Now all she talks about is moving, fast food, and where she's going on vacation. It's like having my Cousin Audra over for dinner, and there is a reason why I do not ask her to come down from Rochester very often. It is because she is boring.
Kim is getting her own show, an extension of her Don't Be Tardy for the Wedding special and it will be all about her life and her family. She is the southern Bethenny Frankel, but the difference between the two of them is that Kim now holds the platform she launched from in the highest disdain. Bethenny was too smart to ever do that. She grew past the Real Housewives but she never thought she was better than them. Well, she probably thought she was, but she never let on. She was always grateful for the opportunity, and Kim should keep that in mind. Next week when she goes pushing the camera out of her face, she needs to remember that she owes everything to that camera in her face. She owes it all to those people around that table. She owes it all to acting out on television and being fun and crazy and entertaining.
But she got up and left Fight Brunch. She waddled off to the car and had her confrontation (which we'll see next week in full) and Kroy drove them back to the town house, and Kim couldn't do anything but look out the window. She just watched it all go buy, the closed businesses in the strip malls and the little bits of trees that separated one development from the next. The sprawl scrolled by as they stopped and started and drove in silence, the radio turned almost all the way down humming something incomprehensible, a skittering baseline of the quiet around them.
Kim stared out the window and thought about it all. She thought about that day when NeNe came over to her house with some guy she barely knew who had a camera. "Come on, Kiiiiiimmm," NeNe said. "Snatch on that wig and let's go. We're going to Sheree's and we're going to make a tape."
"A tape?" Kim said, in that way she always did where a question could be the ultimate indictment. "What kind of tape?"
"We're gonna make a tape to be on a show, honey. We're going to be reality stars, and we need someone like you."
"What am I going to do on a show? I got two kids, a fat ass, a boyfriend who won't leave his wife, a bunch of debt, no prospects, and nothing to do this afternoon but drink a bunch of wine and goof off."
"That means you're coming?"
"Damn straight I'm coming. We're going to make the hell out of that tape."
"It will probably be nothing.""Yeah, who cares. I just want to have some fun with my girls."
"Yes, we are all about fun. Plonk!"
That's how it all started, she can't forget that day, and how it all changed after that, how it changed everything. She would admit that it even changed her. Kim was starting to get hot and she took off her wig and put it in her lap. Kroy looked over at her, not to say anything, just to see what she was doing and he put his eyes back on the road, his jaw fixed tight. That's what she liked the most, finally being around someone quiet, someone she could be herself around. She messed up her matted hair and turned away from the side window and looked straight ahead. She reached out and put her hand over Kroy's as it rested on the stick shift in the middle of their seats. She just let it lay there, her heat transferring into him. And he didn't move his hand but bucked up his middle finger to sort of grab in between her knuckles. He was there for her. Just her. She kept her eyes fixed on the two yellow lines in front of her, going straight and straight and straight into the future without an end, impossible to see where the lines stopped. "It's just not fun anymore. It's just not fun at all."
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Bravo]
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