I’m not going to say that I grew up with Mr. Peabody. It would be a lie to say otherwise. I’m in my early twenties. The most major impact that anything remotely related to Peabody and Sherman was the wonderfully awful Rocky & Bullwinkle Movie.
I did, however, know who Peabody was along with Sherman. If there was an episode of the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show on, then my Dad would normally have me watch it with him. But they were few and far between. Although I probably can equate my later love in life to Doctor Who with the segments of Sherman and Peabody gallivanting around time together. It would also explain why I was so on board with the Eleventh Doctor wearing bow ties…
Sorry. Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t going into Mr. Peabody and Sherman with the same fondness for the cartoon as some critics and my father did. I just went in to see a cute, fun movie about a dog and his boy having wacky adventures through space and time.
For the most part, it was the type of movie that I got. It was full of slapstick and clever wordplay/puns along with a surprising earnestness to the relationship between the titular duo.
Right. Anyway the movie focuses on the world’s smartest dog, Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell), and his adopted boy, Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). The movie honestly throws a lot in your face rather quickly about Peabody’s background as a scientist, diplomat, historian, inventor, musician, fighter, and so much more. He has been raising Sherman and invented a time machine the WABAC (as it is called in the movie) in order for Sherman to have a bright future through learning from the past. When Sherman attends school for the first time, however, his first-hand historical knowledge attracts the ire of popular Penny (voiced by Ariel Winters). After calling him a “dog” and bullying him into biting her, Peabody stands to lose Sherman to Miss Umbridge…sorry I mean Miss Grunion (voiced by Allison Janney). So in order to soothe hurt feelings, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) to dinner.
Penny tricks Sherman into spilling the beans about the WABAC and makes him take her into the past with it. When she decides as King Tut’s bride-to-be in the past, Sherman goes to the present in order to get Peabody’s help. Thus sets off the rest of the movie.
For the most part, the movie is a fun, fast-paced, time travel adventure-comedy with a lot of fun slapstick and a liberal use of historical figures.
Ty Burrell’s Peabody doesn’t quite nail the cadence and overly dry tone of the original Peabody (I looked up an original cartoon to compare) but he does get pretty close. Actually, I prefer Burrell’s voice here as his Peabody seems to have a warmer voice in comparison with the original.
Max Charles, who is ten, also does a capable performance as Sherman. Sometimes child actors can be hit or miss, even if they have past experience like Charles. With the slight lisp and earnest voice, Sherman comes across as a very sweet, earnest, geeky boy with good intentions.
Actually I only have tow major problems with the movie as a whole.
The first problem is Penny. Now let be clear, Ariel Winters does a great job as Penny. I also understand the need for her to facilitate the main conflict of the story. Now maybe nearly being forced into marriage to King Tut can change a person. For my taste, however, Penny went too quickly from bratty girl to sweetheart. I think if there was a longer conflict set up between Penny and Sherman, who goes quickly from hating her to loving her, then it would have been a more interesting plot.
We honestly had no need for my second problem, which is Miss Grunion. Or rather, I didn’t see the need for her. Her role, as far as I can tell, is to be a prejudiced, horrible person that reminds me waaay too strongly of Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series.
Oh wow. A villain with a lot of cats who wears waaay too much pink and has an irrational prejudice toward unconventional families? Yeah. It’s pretty much Umbridge with a different name. Miss Grunion doesn’t really do anything as a villain and, frankly, is not really needed. Also I don’t think that you can take an adopted child as easily as they seem to think it in the film.
Or maybe it is. What do I know?
Anyway, the strongest part is when they are actually travelling through time. The animation is decent and has a lot of nice colouring. Peabody makes a lot of puns and has clever wordplay. There’s silliness and some good enough emotional scenes. The best one occurs at Troy, which I dare not spoil, but Max Charles really sells Sherman’s emotion in the scene.
All in all, I think Mr. Peabody and Sherman, while not as great as The Lego Movie, is still a really good and solid kid’s movie. Yes there are some problems. It won’t detract from your enjoyment of it. It honestly didn’t detract all that much from mine or my Dad’s. It captures some of tone and spirit of the original cartoon but doesn’t strictly adhere to it, providing some warmth and earnestness to the proceedings.
I give it a recommend for parents and kids to go see. The parents will be amused by some of humorous interpretations of the historical figures and the kids will like the time-travelling trio.
I rate it: three out of four stars.
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