Mr. Peabody and Sherman” Finally Hits the Big Screen
By Skip Sheffield
“The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” aired from 1959-1964 and continues to this day in television re-runs. The crudely-animated show featured corny puns, satire and self-referential humor aimed more at adults than children.
“Peabody’s Improbable History” was a regular segment of the show. In it a dog named Mr. Peabody and his adopted human boy Sherman would journey back to key moments in a time-travelling device known as the WABAC (pronounced “Way-Back”) Machine.
Now “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a 3-D animated feature movie. It is bigger, longer but not necessarily better than the more sarcastic black-and-white original.
Still, “Mr. Peabody” is a lot of nostalgic fun for Baby Boom era adults. I imagine the 3-D special effects have been added to appeal to a younger generation. It was a 12-year effort for director Ron Minkoff (“The Lion King”) to make “Mr. Peabody” a reality.
Tiffany Ward, daughter of “Rocky & Bullwinkle” creator Jay Ward, served as executive director and creative consultant for the script, based on her late father’s characters and expanded by screenwriter Craig Wright.
An all-star cast of voices was recruited, topped by Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody, the world’s smartest dog, and Max Charles as Sherman, his adoptive human son.
The setup comes when Sherman gets in a conflict with snobby Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter) at school and Mr. Sherman tries to mediate with her parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) when social worker Mrs. Grunion (Allison Jenney) threatens to remove Sherman from Mr. Peabody’s custody.
Sherman has been forbidden from using the WBAC machine without Mr. Peabody, so of course Sherman does so in an effort to impress Penny.
Sherman and Penny travel to ancient Egypt, revolution-era France and ancient Troy, where they experience misadventures with historic characters.
The relationship between Mr. Peabody has been expanded and deepened for the movie. This adds sentimentality that was not in the original, but in aiming the movie at a family market it is smart to emphasize family values.
"The Wind Rises" a Class Act
For a sheer class act, you won’t go wrong with “The Wind Rises,” which is billed as the last animated film by Japanese writer-director master Hayao Miyazaki.
Jiro (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Japanese boy who aspires to be a pilot, but because of poor eyesight he settles on a career of aircraft design instead. Jiro joins the aircraft company that designed the famed Japanese Zero in 1927. The chief designer, Italian Caproni (Stanley Tucci), becomes Jiro’s mentor and inspiration.
The story also illustrates the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, a major tuberculosis epidemic and Japan’s entry into World War II. A romantic side plot has Jiro falling in love with Nahoko (voice of Emily Blunt).
Like his earlier works "Spirited Away" and "Howl's Moving Castle," “The Wind Rises” is majestic, lyrical and beautiful.
More West Bank Violence in “Bethlehem”
Hard on the heels of “Omar” comes the similarly-themed “Bethlehem,” co-written by Israeli director Yuval Adler and Arab journalist Ali Waked, who spent years on the West Bank.
Shadi Mar’i plays Sanfur, the 17-year-old younger brother of Abu Ibrahim (Tarik Kopty), a notorious Palestinian guerrilla fighter. Like “Omar” there is an Israeli Shin Bet (secret police) officer, Razi (Tsahi Halewi) who is pressuring Sanfur to give up terrorist secrets. Unlike “Omar” there is no romantic angle.
“Bethlehem” is a grim, gripping thriller set in one of the most violent, dangerous places on earth.