Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild Action and brief Rude Humor
Directed by: Rob Minkoff
Written by: Craig Wright
Voices of: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Allison Janney, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Zach Callison, Leila Birch & Mel Brooks
MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN could have gone wrong in so many areas. The track record is less-than-stellar for adaptations of THE ROCKY & BULLWINKLE SHOW (e.g. DUDLEY DO-RIGHT and THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE). This was also the first DreamWorks film to delve into the licensed characters they acquired from Classic Media. It’s a bit of an oddball choice to pick the educational cartoon that wasn’t too great when compared to others of its time. With strong writing, there was a slim possibility of this feature working. Lo and behold, MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN turned out to be a splendid piece of family entertainment. It never talks down to its audience and is full of genuine humor. The storyline will keep kids and adults entertained.
Mr. Peabody is far from your average hound. The obvious reason is that he talks. In his early days, Peabody didn’t care to sniff other canines’ rears, lick people’s faces or chase his tail. He found the idea of fetch to be an exercise in futility, because the human would just throw the stick again. Because of his desire for knowledge and a biting sense of sarcasm, the canine genius never had a real home. So when he found an abandoned baby named Sherman, Peabody received permission from the court to adopt him. Peabody educates his son using an invention of his own creation. It’s called the WABAC (pronounced Way Back) machine and it can take you to any point in time. This is how Sherman learns about history.
On his first day of school, Sherman gets into a scuffle with a bratty girl named Penny. This brings the unwanted attention of a dog-hating social worker who has the intention of taking Sherman away from Peabody. In order to reconcile, Peabody invites Penny’s family over for dinner, but some hijinks ensue with the WABAC machine. Peabody, Sherman, and Penny wind up on an adventure through various historical periods and trying to save the space-time continuum from imploding in on itself.
Most of the humor in MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN consists of jokes that only adults in the audience will understand. I don’t remember a single fart joke in the entire film. It’s not that kids won’t enjoy it though, because the story being told is a load of creative fun for all-ages. The infinite landscape of the adventure begins with an opening sequence set in the French Revolution and plenty of notable historical figures make appearances throughout. Arguably, the funniest side character is King Agamemnon (voiced by Patrick Warburton). The characters of Peabody, Sherman, and Penny are all done very well and give us reason to root for them to make it out of their quest in one piece. There are times when each of them are threatened in different ways, but none of these felt clichéd.
The pacing of the film never gives time to lag and the adventure itself never misses a mark. Some of the puns can be pretty bad at points, but the self-aware nature of the film transforms them from painfully cheesy into forgivable. Hitting beat-by-beat in some of the plot areas can be a little too familiar. In fact, I felt that the entire subplot with the social worker could have been cut out entirely. That thread was nearly pointless save for a scene that could have been brought about in a much simpler manner. Sometimes, things don’t need to be overly complicated and MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN felt cramped at points in the overall storyline.
The animation is gorgeous. There’s a cartoony quality to it, but it is a high realized cartoon! One sequence owes a lot to BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and will entertain fans of that film. Ideas of time travel paradoxes make the adventure more thrilling. I enjoyed every single minute. MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN is the kind of uplifting adventure that the whole family will enjoy. There is a subplot that seemed almost pointless by the conclusion and the adventure hits all the familiar beats, but never once did I think the movie necessarily did anything out-and-out poorly. It may be full of science and educational material, but it’s equally full of heart and laughs. Highly recommended!