Mr. Peabody and Sherman: A Rip-Roaring Space-Time Cartoon
By Sandra Olmsted
Just as quirky and puny as the original, director Rob Minkoff’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman has something for adults and kids — silliness and the same breakneck pace of the original Jay Ward produced and Ted Key created cartoon.
As part of Ward’s cartoon variety show starring Rocky and Bullwinkle, the original runs a mere five minutes. During that time, Mr. Peabody, the refined genius dog who literally knows it all, and his sidekick Sherman, a boy who lacks knowledge, would time-travel to a historical event, mess with history, get chased by the locals, and barely escape to the WABAC Machine. To stretch the tiny, but beloved, segment into a feature film, some changes had to be made. The theme of unwanted animals in shelters and unwanted children promotes adoption and defines family. Fortunately, the audience isn’t beaten over the head with these themes, but they do provide a nice underlay of emotion for the main theme of Mr. Peabody learning something he doesn’t know.
The film opens with Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) and Sherman (voice of Max Charles) on a sedate trip in the WABAC Machine on a time-travel adventure involving Marie Antoinette (voice of Lauri Fraser) and cake. The film then moves to a short explanation of Mr. Peabody’s failure to be adopted at the animal shelter, but his determination and spunk carrying him all the way to Harvard. When he finds Sherman abandoned in an alley, he convinces a judge to allow a dog to adopt a boy. Mr. Peabody’s trips through history are designed to share the thing he values most — knowledge — with his son. However, as much as Mr. Peabody loves Sherman, the best he can utter is “I have a deep regard for you as well.”
When Sherman starts first grade, he’s s chip off the old block, but his eagerness to answer every question correctly raises the ire of Penny (voice of Ariel Winter), the class bully who is a know-it-all in her own right. When she taunts Sherman to the breaking point, his toothy response calls into question whether a dog is an appropriate parent for a child. Miss Grunion (voice of Allison Janney), a battle ax from social services, leads the charge to take Sherman away from Mr. Peabody. When Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents (voice of Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert) to dinner to make nice, Penny tricks Sherman into revealing the WABAC and into taking for a joyride. Not only do the two kids’ misadventures threaten to rip the entire space-time continuum to pieces and put Mr. Peabody, Penny, and Sherman in danger, but they seriously jeopardize Mr. Peabody’s plan to convince Miss Grunion to drop the matter.
The delightful absurdity of Mr. Peabody visiting old friends throughout history who accept time-travel plus the fantasy of meeting: baby Moses, King Tut, Leonardo Da Vinci (voice of Stanley Tucci), Mona Lisa (voice of Lake Bell), the Trojan horse, Oedipus, Gandhi, Einstein, Spartacus, Bill Clinton, Isaac Newton, Abe Lincoln, Albert Einstein (voice of Mel Brooks), and George Washington are just part of the fun.
The film retains the original’s minimalistic look which is combined smoothly with a retro look evocative of the 1960s modern. While the 3D is nicely low key, it may not be worth a higher ticket price for all moviegoers. A Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation release of a DreamWorks Animation production, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor and runs 91 minutes. Mr. Peabody and Sherman is in theaters now. (More of Olmsted’s reviews can be found at <thecinematicskinny.com>.)
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