Synopsis: After enjoying big Easter and Passover meals, the Reel Guys like to treat the family to a good movie. Because there are as many different kinds of family movies as there are colours on the most psychedelic Ukrainian Easter egg, this week the guys have a look at their favourites. From the big screen to rentals for the small screen they choose movies that will put an extra hop in your step this weekend.
Richard: Mark, if you’re planning to take the kids out to the movies this weekend, there are two recent family flicks that deserve to be seen on the big screen. The Lego Movie is possibly the weirdest, most psychedelic kid’s entertainment since H.R. Pufnstuf, but it is also one of the best films of the year so far, kid’s movie or not. Then there is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a big animated film inspired by a time travelling segment from the TV show Rocky and His Friends. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and the kind of children’s movie that I think parents and kids will enjoy, but probably for completely different reasons.
Mark: Richard, so far The Lego Movie is the most exciting movie of the year, family or otherwise, but it should be noted that it, too, has a strong Oedipal theme in it. As a father of a three-year-old, I’m never quite sure what family entertainment means; what’s appropriate for my little boy is different than what might entertain an eight-year-old. Pretty much anything animated works for all ages, but then it gets complicated. And gender plays a role in choosing the right flick, too. Young girls love The Wizard of Oz, but young boys, not so much. But you never know. My little one loves Frozen, just out on DVD, even though it might seem “girly” to some.
RC: People love Frozen. I’m not one of them, but there is no arguing with the success of that movie. I’m more on side with Despicable Me II, which I thought was great fun despite its predictable plot. The story of chrome-domed former bad guy Gru’s (Steve Carell) working with the Anti-Villain League could have written itself, but the inventive gags contained within are the reason the whole family will enjoy the movie. There are lots of fun characters, but it’s really all about the Minions — Gru’s yellow, jelly-bean-shaped helpers — who spice things up with their own special kind of anarchy. Speaking in gibberish, they’re fun and more than worth the rental.
MB: Despicable Me II is a treat but my little guy deemed it “too scawy”. But I look forward to a family viewing of E.T. — the greatest family movie ever. Young or old, boys or girls, who doesn’t love the tale of that lovable little alien? Also on my eventual DVD queue would be Gremlins and even Home Alone. Kids love movies with kid heroes.
RC: Speaking of kid heroes, the adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book Where the Wild Things Are isn’t a movie for kids as much as it is a movie about being a kid. Max is the hero, a lonely kid who goes to where the wild things are. It’s a slow moving, simple film about deep feelings. It’s not a slick, brightly coloured kid’s film with a connect-the-dots plot and an easily digested moral, but it is a magical movie.
MB: I never got the appeal of the movie or the book, but maybe I’ve been missing something. But here’s an idea: Sit down with the family and watch A Hard Day’s Night. Everyone loves The Beatles, and this is the pop group in full cheeky-cute mode. Their rock songs from 1964 sound a lot like kids music today, with their melodic hooks and innocent lyrics.
Jay Ward Productions gave us some indelible characters. Rocky & Bullwinkle, Dudley Do-Right and George of the Jungle sprung from the inventive mind of the TV producer. Good TV, but generally really bad movies.
Blame Brendan Fraser. Blame ham fisted adaptations that valued slapstick over satire. Blame Rick Moranis for not bothering to learn “world’s greatest no-goodnik.” Boris Badenov’s Pottsylvanian accent.
No matter how you slice it, no good ever came from trying to harness the anarchy of Ward’s storytelling on the big screen.
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is the first of the Ward adaptations that isn’t afraid to embrace the heady but puerile parody and puns that characterized his most famous work, “Rocky and His Friends.”
Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the world’s smartest being and his son, appeared on that show in the weekly Peabody’s Improbable History segment. Now they’re on the big screen, voiced by “Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell and Max Charles.
It’s the origin story of Mr. Peabody, a beagle in the world of humans—imagine “Family Guy’s” Brian with less attitude but more PhDs. He’s a Harvard grad, a Nobel Prize winner, advisor to heads of state and in his spare time he invented planking and auto tune.
With his adopted son Sherman he’s also a time traveller, taking the WABAC machine—“It’s not WHERE we’re going, but WHEN!”—to various spots in history and it’s Sherman’s firsthand knowledge of George Washington that really kicks off the story.
On his first day in school his version of the George Washington legend annoys classmate Penny (Ariel Winter). After a showdown in the lunchroom, Sherman bites Penny which gets the attention of the school councilor Mrs. Grunion (Allison Janney). She’s disgusted that a dog was allowed to adopt a boy and threatens to take the Sherman away.
Peabody counters with a charm offensive, throwing a dinner party for Penny’s parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) and Grunion. His plan is almost derailed when Sherman and Penny hijack the WABAC machine, whirling through space to ancient Egypt, the Trojan War and Leonardo Di Vinci’s studio where they discover the secret of Mona Lisa’s smile.
Can Mr. Peabody rescue them from their time travels before Penny’s parents notice she’s gone and the space-time continuum is irreparably destroyed?
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” lacks the political bent of the original cartoon, but it is loaded with references from literature, history and popular culture. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and I can’t imagine a Minion punning, “Marie Antoinette could have kept her head if she had issued an edict to distribute bread to the poor. But you can’t have your cake and edict too.”
It’s stuffed with the spirit of Jay Ward, which is a good thing, even if it does veer off path with a sentimental father and son subplot.
The voice work is fun—there are few animated pleasures greater than hearing Patrick Warburton’s confident dumb guy routine—and the animation is top notch and like the best of Ward’s work, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” realizes that the material has to work on multi levels, the surface and the satirical.
SYNOPSIS: Based on characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the movie stars the voice of Modern Family’s Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody, a beagle who is also the world’s smartest being. Imagine “Family Guy’s” Brian with less attitude but more PhDs. When his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) bites schoolmate Penny (Ariel Winter) Peabody tries to smooth things by throwing a dinner for Penny’s parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann). His party plan is almost derailed when Sherman and Penny hijack the WABAC device, a time machine that takes them to ancient Egypt and the Trojan War. Can Mr. Peabody rescue them before Penny’s parents notice she’s gone and the space-time continuum is irreparably destroyed?
Richard: 4 Stars
Steve: 3 Stars
Richard: Steve, Mr. Peabody & Sherman lacks the political bent of the original Jay Ward cartoon series, but it is loaded with references from literature, history and popular culture. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and I can’t imagine a Minion punning, “Marie Antoinette could have kept her head if she had issued an edict to distribute bread to the poor. But you can’t have your cake and edict too.” Which means it is stuffed with the spirit of Ward, which is a good thing, even if it does veer off path with a sentimental father and son subplot. What did you think?
Steve: I agree 100% Richard. In fact, by dipping its proverbial toe into that father-son subplot, the film dares to touch on what other family films like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles have done better. Still, the movie’s meteoric pace never lingers too long on any facet of the film and its niche truly is the ceaseless nods to historical events. My favorite had to be a clever throwback to Spartacus.
RC: I know the history element sounds dangerously educational for a mainstream kid’s flick, but the movie’s trips back to ancient Egypt, the Trojan War and Leonardo Di Vinci’s studio where they discover the secret of Mona Lisa’s smile are really fun. They are made doubly so by great voice work. As the dim witted general Agamemnon Patrick Warburton really stands out. He started the confident dumb guy routine on Seinfeld and uses it to hilarious effect here.
SG: And for those who remember the old Bullwinkle series, Ty Burrell does a pretty decent job voicing the movie’s canine savant. Even more successful are the comedy’s captivating visuals especially the way director Rob Minkoff works the 3D to capture the measure of epic Trojan battles or traveling through the time-space continuum and not simply for eye-catching sight gags.
RC: The animation is top notch and like the best of Ward’s work, Mr. Peabody & Sherman realizes that the material has to work on multi levels, the surface and the satirical. Like the Lego Movie, I think this movie will appeal to kids and adults.
SG: Again, I agree. The movie is a peppy, playful ride through history for all ages. In fact, it probably won’t hurt either that most everyone in the audience will barely remember the old Bullwinkle cartoon.