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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Mr. Peabody, Penny, and Sherman appear in a scene from the animated movie "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."
Baby boomers old enough to recall an animated moose named Bullwinkle and his flying-squirrel sidekick, Rocky, will also likely remember the titular characters of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" (Fox).

That's because, in their original incarnation, the latter duo figured in a series of short cartoons that were shown as part of the TV show "Rocky and His Friends," which premiered in 1959, and its re-titled successor, "The Bullwinkle Show," which ran until 1964.

For those outside the hippie-turned-yuppie demographic, introductions may be in order. Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) is a hyper-intellectual dog whose many accomplishments include his invention of a time-traveling device called the WABAC machine. Sherman (voice of Max Charles) is the perky human son Mr. Peabody adopted as an infant, after finding him abandoned in an alley.

The opening of director Rob Minkoff's big-screen, 3-D updating finds this unusual pair at an emotional crossroads: Sherman is about to start school for the first time, an event that will remove him from the vigilant supervision Mr. Peabody has always exercised over him.

Sherman's academic career gets off to a bumpy start when he runs afoul of classmate Penny Peterson (voice of Ariel Winter). Jealous of Sherman's superior knowledge of history—gained, of course, via the WABAC—Penny taunts him by saying that, since his father is a dog, Sherman must be one as well.

As though to vindicate the charge, Sherman unwisely brings their quarrel to a climax by biting Penny. This transgression not only lands Sherman in the principal's office, but—thanks to the scowling intervention of know-it-all social worker Miss Grunion (voice of Allison Janney)—places Mr. Peabody's continued custody of him under threat as well.

During a get-together designed to smooth things over with Penny's parents (voices of Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert), Sherman, whose antipathy toward Penny masks an unacknowledged attraction, tries to impress her by taking her for an unauthorized spin in the WABAC—with the upshot that she winds up stranded in ancient Egypt.

The path to Penny's rescue zigzags chronologically from the court of King Tut to Renaissance Florence and back to the city of Troy on the eve of its destruction by the Greeks. Familiar figures putting in appearances along the way include Leonardo da Vinci (voice of Stanley Tucci), who's here endowed with the accent and manner of a old-time organ grinder, as well as a knuckleheaded version of famed Greek warrior-king Agamemnon (voice of Patrick Warburton).

Craig Wright's screenplay adds a tiresome amount of potty humor to the elaborate, sometimes groan-inducing puns characteristic of the original material. And a lone adult-themed play on words, though it will certainly fly over youngsters' heads, still seems jarringly out of place.

But basic history lessons for the youngest moviegoers, together with a worthy message about respecting people of different backgrounds—even if they do happen to be canines—endow this more than usually literate children's adventure with some countervailing virtues.

The film contains scenes of mild peril, several scatological jokes and sight gags and a single double entendre. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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