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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When all-American girl Susan Murphy is inadvertently hit by a falling meteor on her wedding day she grows to be nearly 50 feet tall. The U.S. military gets wind of this renames her Ginormica and locks her away with a slacker group of other “monsters” in a top-secret compound. But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc these good-hearted but inept creatures are called into action by the President and must band together as a team to save the world from certain catastrophe.
WHO’S IN IT?
As usual Dreamworks has assembled a stellar A-list voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon as Susan/Ginormica. Playing one of the rare female animated heroes Witherspoon’s sweet/confused demeanor — in light of her highly unusual status as a fearsome freakazoid — hits just the right tone generously letting her zanier colleagues steal scenes from right under her (a long way down by the way). Chief among these are a not-so-bright gelatinous blue mass named B.O.B. hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen; the genius Dr. Cockroach Ph.D in the capable hands of House doc Hugh Laurie; and Will Arnett’s half-ape half-fish The Missing Link. In the human roles there’s Stephen Colbert as the idiotic U.S. President Kiefer Sutherland as the monster’s prison guardian Paul Rudd as the ego-driven weatherman fiancé of Susan; and a deliciously villainous Rainn Wilson as Galaxhar the alien determined to take over Earth.
Superb 3-D effects aren’t overdone and add immeasurably to the ginormous fun of the film but even seeing it in theaters that only show it in regular 2-D doesn’t spoil the pure joy of this cartoonish War of the Worlds. Throw in parodies of every cheap '50s sci-fi movie you can think of and you have the ingredients for a silly monster mash sure to appeal to just about anyone who wants to laugh. Despite the impressive production elements it’s the smart and clever script that really sets it apart from its competitors — and that even includes the similar Monsters Inc. from Pixar.
Like any kid-oriented comic ‘toon today the action can be a bit too frenetic and Monsters vs. Aliens piles a lot of it on in its trim 95 minutes. Still the lovable characters carry the day and somehow make it all palatable.
When Susan now Ginormica brings her new friends home to meet her parents chaos ensues and so do the laughs. Also impressive are the large action scenes that make fine use of CGI animation breakthroughs.
BEST SUPPORTING BLOB:
It's easily the one-eyed lame-brained blue lug of a people hugger named B.O.B. perfectly matched to the talents of Rogen. He rolls away with the movie and inevitably the merchandise tie-ins.
Top Story: Law Wants Penn To Win Oscar
Jude Law, nominated for best actor for his portrayal of Confederate soldier Inman in Cold Mountain, wants Sean Penn to win the statuette instead of him, The Associated Press reports. "I've always loved Sean Penn's work. He's someone I've respected and looked up to and admired for years and years and years, and I think it should be his year," Law told reporters at the Berlin International Film Festival Wednesday. Penn earned his fourth Oscar nomination for his role as a bereaved father in Clint Eastwood's critically acclaimed tragedy, Mystic River. He has never appeared at an Academy Awards show, but says he plans to this year. Law is in Berlin promoting Cold Mountain which opened the festival, but is not in competition. This is Law's second Oscar nomination, having been nominated in the best supporting actor category in 2000 for his role as the roguish Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr. Ripley. He is expected to be in attendance at this year's ceremony later this month.
Garfunkel Pleads Guilty in Marijuana Case
In a reversal of his original plea, Art Garfunkel has pleaded guilty to marijuana possession, Reuters reports. Garfunkel, who comprised one half of the popular '60s duo Simon and Garfunkel, was charged with marijuana possession after his limo was pulled over for speeding January 17th in Hurley, New York, and 6 grams of marijuana were found in the singer's jacket pocket. His driver received a ticket and Garfunkel was given the choice of contesting the marijuana charge or paying a $100 fine. Initially Garfunkel wished to plead "not guilty" and a hearing was set for Feb. 11. His lawyer then changed Garfunkel's plea and paid the fine a week early. Garfunkel did not appear in court.
Master Takes Command at British Critics' Awards
Peter Weir's seafaring epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World took top honors at this year's London Film Critics' Circle awards, winning three awards and completely routing favorite The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Reuters reports. The Russell Crowe starrer took best picture, best British actor (Paul Bettany), and best screenwriting (John Collee and Peter Weir) awards at the annual ceremony held by British film critics who write for newspapers throughout England. Best director (Clint Eastwood) and actor (Sean Penn) awards went to Mystic River with the best actress award going to Julianne Moore for Far From Heaven.
German Director Decries "Primitive" Reception of Film at Berlin Fest
Director Romuald Karmakar expressed his displeasure with the less-than-ideal reaction to his film Nightsongs at the Berlin Film Festival yesterday, Reuters reports. The film, a tragedy based on a play by Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse, suffered many audience walkouts during the screening and many in the audience laughed during the conclusion of the gloomy love story about two lovers who are about to run off together when the woman's husband kills himself by jumping out a window. "It's getting too primitive here and I'm sick and tired of it," Karmakar said of the audience's reaction, "How far have we fallen?" He went on to explain, "It's a love story, just without a happy ending. You find that everywhere but it's underrepresented in movies. Reality is full of problems. We have four million unemployed in Germany."
Majority of Americans Believe Jackson Reveal Intentional
Janet Jackson intended to reveal her breast during the Super Bowl halftime show as a publicity stunt, a poll conducted by Billboard.com suggests. Of the 8,307 polled, 65 percent believed right from the get-go that Jackson fully intended Justin Timberlake to rip off her bustier cup and show her naked breast to the world, while 35 percent believe that the full exposure was unintentional. Both Jackson and Timberlake have since apologized for the incident, though they have repeatedly said the breast fallout was due to a "wardrobe malfunction." The Federal Communications Commission is investigating the incident, so as to punish the guilty and protect the nation's fragile eyes.
Aguilera, Elliott To Pitch Viva Glam
Makeup addict Christina Aguilera, along with Missy Elliott, Linda Evangelista, Chloe Sevigny and Boy George, will pitch Viva Glam, a makeup line that funds HIV/AIDS programs. All proceeds from the MAC-owned Viva Glam V Lipgloss and Lipstick will go to care of people afflicted with AIDS as well as awareness and prevention programs. Since the Viva Glam collection debuted in 1994, over $32 million has been raised from sales of the lip products. MAC president John Demsey said the most recent collection of models were chosen because they represent the many faces of AIDS victims, who are "all ages, all races, all sexes". The lipgloss and lipstick will be available starting next month.
Yao Ming Top Chinese Celebrity
According to Forbes magazine's Chinese edition, Houston Rockets star Yao Ming is the top Chinese celebrity of the year, AP reports. The magazine based its list on the celebrity's exposure in the media and their income for the year. Ming earned $14.6 million last year, placing him second to action star Jet Li, who earned $17 million, but ranked 10th overall.