Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mr. Peabody And Sherman: An Afterthought

I didn't hate DreamWorks' new big screen adaptation of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, Mr. Peabody and Sherman. But on my way out of the theatre I did feel a very specific sense of dread.
It's not about this movie being good or bad for a family. It's about the statement this movie was trying to make. The idea it was attempting to force into an otherwise rather pure piece of our television history. Now I'm biased... Peabody and Sherman has always been my favorite part of Rocky and Bullwinkle. But to witness a story wherein Peabody might lose Sherman to child protective services because one of their agents holds a totally inexplicable grudge against the worlds smartest dog... well I just about wanted to leave the theatre on principle alone.
It's made worse because, as a writer, I can understand the necessity to make this film have such a plot. This comes from a place of recognition, that those old Rocky and Bullwinkle toons were developed for a very specific medium: Television. And not only that, they were made for a variety show, so they did not require an extensive amount of time per episode. Not that that could keep the writers from stuffing each toon full of more dialogue than some Sorkin shows. Rather, those original writers embraced the simplicity of their format and then went beyond.
"Sherman, in approximately 54 years a Hollywood studio named DreamWorks is going to make a motion picture about us that has nothing to do with us at all." "Gee, Mr. Peabody. How does that work?" "It would seem not even the filmmakers know."
By adding this crazy plot line, the filmmakers were saying "We know this doesn't work in such a lengthy format... but we've been payed to do this... so here's the most obvious story based on what the original presented us with." And that surly doesn't make it the "best" story. Sure, it's funny to have a dog adopt a boy. It's a lot less funny when child protective services gets involved. And it's made even worse when too many rules are presented surrounding the way back (Peabody's time traveling device). If the wit of the original comes from tiny changes the characters accidentally made to our history, this new film kind of smashes that wit to pieces with an already dated space-time continuum subplot.

Still I'm rambling. I went in hoping for a very extended episode. But I came out with definitive proof that such an endeavor was destined to fail in our current Hollywood Studio System. The stakes are just too high to allow a film like this to actually have an original and interesting perspective. So I have to ask as I've asked before, with legitimate bias, "Why make this film at all?"
If parents bring their kids to see this movie, I certainly hope they'll let them watch the original series before hand.

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