MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN Movie Review
When it comes to cinematic adaptations of animated properties created by Jim Ward, I couldn’t imagine doing much worse than previous abominations that have traumatized our retinas, such as Rocky & Bullwinkle or Dudley Do-Right. Luckily for us, Rob Minkoff (The Lion King) has managed to put together a feature that for the most part doesn’t completely insult our intelligence and comes close to maintaining a balance that appeals to a young audience as well as adults.
Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell), is an accomplished dog to say the least, a genius scientific inventor, musician, athlete, well-rounded scholar and adoptive parent of a seven year old boy named Sherman (Max Charles). Sherman is the target of a bully at school named Penny (Ariel Winter) and after being ironically humiliated in the school cafeteria, decides to fight back, or in this case bite. When Mr. Peabody attempts to resolve the situation at their home with Penny’s parents (Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert), Sherman creates a bigger mess for them after taking Penny for a ride in the time machine called the WABAC and Mr. Peabody must come to the rescue. This isn’t Peabody’s only concern as a convoluted subplot involving a prejudice social worker, means that Peabody must also prove that he is fit to be Sherman’s parent. Although the plot points in getting the WABAC in different historical periods certainly lack creativity, there’s a refreshing amount of educational substance that’s lacking from recent animated features, even though the facts are at times played fast and loose. This film has a fun spirit that brings to mind Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, as we meet exaggerated caricatures of Marie Antoinette, Leonardo da Vinci and King Agamemnon. Ty Burrell embodies Mr. Peabody with a touch of warmth, while maintaining the deadpan delivery of cringe worthy puns but the transformation of Penny from ruthless bully to Sherman’s mischievous sidekick and some what awkward crush, there tends to be an uneven balance of forced sentimentality and time-travelling adventure.
Certainly not everyone will get all of the in-jokes that allude to the historical references but there’s enough excitement to be found in the basic science fiction elements that will likely inspire children to take interest in the historical aspects and there’s no need for this film to beg for laughs, yet without giving the younger audience credit there are plenty of moments resorting to poop-joke visual gags that seem slightly out of place and rather condescending. With that being said, there’s certainly enough here to recommend and Mr. Peabody & Sherman offers enough entertainment and food for thought that everyone can enjoy.