Total nostalgia here, folks. As a smaller person I used to look forward to these little vignettes tucked away like nuggets of gold hidden underground within the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon. I loved the ironic wit of a cartoon featuring a genius of a dog who “owned” a boy named Sherman. Really, who can resist a smart dog that wears Harry Potter glasses and a red bow tie? Not I, that’s for sure! As someone who loved history even from a young age it was like this cartoon was made with me in mind involving a time traveling, speaking dog. So, you know when this updated and feature length version of the short cartoon came out I was dying to go see it. Now I was wise enough to temper my enthusiasm with thoughts of “It can’t possibly be as good as you remember it to be as that was a particular moment in time”. So I did not go into it setting it up for failure.
Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell – from television’s Modern Family) found himself in a dog pound. When families came around to adopt a dog he was never selected. Maybe it was his know-it-all nature or the fact that he wouldn’t play fetch because it made no sense to him. Whatever the case, Mr. Peabody did not let the fact that he did not have a family of his own get him down. He just dedicated himself to the pursuit of knowledge and became a genius who graduated from Harvard and went on to win Nobel Prizes and Olympic medals.
This existence seemed to fulfill him until he came across an infant boy abandoned on the street. Mr. Peabody took the child home, named him Sherman (Max Charles – The Amazing Spider-Man, The Three Stooges) and petitioned and won the right in court to be his legal guardian. The first years of Sherman’s life were wonderful in that he had a father who loved him and had also invented a machine called the Way Back that travelled through time. So instead of just reading to the young lad about George Washington, Mr. Peabody could bring Sherman back to meet the first President of the United States.
Soon it was time for Sherman to go to school. All this practical experience made him ready for almost anything teachers would ask him, but also made an enemy. The popular girl in school Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter – from television’s Modern Family) was used to also being the smart girl so she did not like it that Sherman seemed to know more than her. Penny then set about bullying Sherman going so far one day as calling him a dog. Sherman responded the only way he could – he bit Penny.
Because of this Principal Purdy (Stephen Tobolowsky – Memento, Thelma & Louise) had to report the incident to child services. The very unpleasant Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney – from television’s Mom) threatens to take Sherman away from Mr. Peabody citing that it makes it obvious that a dog is not a fit guardian for a boy.
Before Ms. Grunion is scheduled to come over for an inspection, Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents, Paul (Stephen Colbert – from television’s The Colbert Report) and Patty (Leslie Mann – This is 40, ParaNorman), over for dinner to smooth things out. This would have been a brilliant idea except for the fact that Sherman feels tormented by Penny and so takes her in the Way Back machine despite the fact that Mr. Peabody has told him to tell no one about it. Mishaps, adventures and a race against time ensue.
This winter there has already seen the release of one excellent animated film in The Lego Movie, so it seems too much to ask for that we have another. Yet here it is in the form of Mr. Peabody & Sherman. This is a high quality animated feature which can be enjoyed by the whole family. Unlike The Lego Movie there are no laugh out loud moments rather it is filled with quiet chuckles and very few references to pop culture. It is a different beast, but one that can be enjoyed nonetheless.
Unlike the recent Smurfs redoes this film remembers that to make a good movie you have to have a good story. Story, while not stupendous, is strong and does not drag down the animation or gags. It tells the tale in a witty way of a different kind of family being okay. We see Sherman struggling with young peoples’ struggles of fitting in at school and Mr. Peabody having to deal with the super tough job of being a parent. Universal parental fears of being outgrown by your kids and kids wanting to assert their independence are covered. It also pretty mature stuff for a kids’ film. None of your oh so typical dumbing down of subjects here. Proves that a film can be fun and educational at the same time.
To make it appealing to younger viewers there is still plenty of gags and action sequences. The voice work is excellent and the locations travelled to like Ancient Egypt, French Revolution, Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop, and battle involving the Trojan Horse are cool to look at. This is probably one of Dreamworks’ best animated films.
- Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends Show
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman Segments – five segments from the original television series including:
- “Robin Hood,”
- “Leonardo Da Vinci,”
- “Louis XVI,”
- “William Shakespeare,”
- “Ludwig Van Beethoven.”
- History’s Greatest Mysteries – A Dog and his Boy
- Peabody’s Paw Print on History
- Time Travel Memory Match game
- The WABAC Jigsaw Puzzle game
- Digital Copy