‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ Review

Published 7 months ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:05 pm,

Mr Peabody Sherman Reviews starring Ty Burrell and Stephen Colbert Mr. Peabody & Sherman Review

Peabody has a heart and mind, but compared to something like The LEGO Movie, this is definitely a second-tier contender for your dollar.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is the big-screen reboot of the “Peabody’s Improbable History” shorts included as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle animated shows of the 1950s and ’60s. Keeping with the same origin story, Mr. Peabody is a beagle who happens to be the smartest being alive. A business magnate, inventor, scientist, Nobel Laureate, gourmand and Olympic athlete, Peabody can accomplish virtually any task – including a landmark court case that allowed him (a dog) to adopt his son Sherman (a human boy).  The happy pair fill their days using Peabody’s WABAC time machine in order to go on fun adventures throughout history – a seemingly ideal life for a young boy to grow up in.

However, when Sherman starts school he quickly finds that his unique (but awesome) life makes him a target for bullying and social ridicule. One girl in particular, Penny, pushes Sherman so far that he lashes out in a way that forces the school and child services to intervene. Facing serious challenge to his claims as an adoptive parent, Peabody decides to invite Penny, her parents and militant social worker Ms. Grunion over for a fine cuisine dinner – in order to cool hot tempers. But when Penny’s instigation leads to her and Sherman taking the WABAC for an ill-fated joy ride, Mr. Peabody winds up in a fiasco that could threaten the entire space-time continuum.

Ty Burell and Max Charles in Mr. Peabody Sherman 2014 Mr. Peabody & Sherman Review

Director Rob Minkoff has a list of hit animated works under his belt (The Lion KingRoger Rabbit shorts like “Tummy Trouble” and “Roller Coaster Rabbit”) – but his more recent work with live-action has been less impressive (The Forbidden KingdomThe Haunted Mansion). Returning to animation for the first time in years, Minkoff transforms the thin material of the Peabody shorts into a legitimate animated feature about family bonds and growing up, with historical trivia thrown in for good measure. While that is a feat in and of itself, ultimately the film doesn’t measure up to the level of Dreamworks Animation’s best works (new classics like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon); instead, Peabody & Sherman falls somewhere alongside the studio’s earnest but otherwise average second-tier features (like Kung Fu Panda 2). 

Visually speaking, Peabody & Sherman is solid with a lot of impressive flourishes to touch it up. The animation style is comparable to Pixar’s The Incredibles  - but that close resemblance is not exactly a compliment, since the character models for Peabody & Sherman are coming to the screen a decade after Mr. Incredible and his family. That’s all to say: while sufficient, Peabody & Sherman‘s animation style and character models aren’t exactly stunning.

Mr Peabody Sherman 3D Flying Sequence Mr. Peabody & Sherman Review

Beyond that stylistic criticism, Minkoff knows how to have fun with the material and is smart about using the film screen as canvas for great visual gags, slapstick comedy and fun pokes at both contemporary life and history, which will appeal to both kids and adults. The sci-fi aspects of the film (like Peabody’s WABAC and the time travel visuals) are a bit more spectacular to behold – as are the action/chase sequences. Those stronger elements (the action and sci-fi) are what ultimately justify the film’s 3D format, as those moments are genuinely enhanced by the immersive dimensional composition.

The script by TV writer Craig Wright (Six Feet Under, Dirty Sexy Money) is unexpectedly bold in its metaphoric implications. The story about Peabody’s custody of Sherman directly echoes issues about “proper” family structure and adoption rights in the modern era – topics which are still quite controversial and sensitive. Of course, those messages are more for adults to recognize and kids to unconsciously mull over, while more familiar (read: cliched) ideas about kids growing up and parents letting go rush in to provide tried-and-true heart as balance against all the pontification. As an added bonus: the historical examples and exposition might even teach kids a thing or two!

Mr Peabody and Sherman movie Historical references Mr. Peabody & Sherman Review

Reno 911! and Night at the Museum masterminds Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon provided “additional dialogue” for the film – and one has to wonder just how much of the sharp verbal wit and barrage of Peabody-brand puns came from them. The contrast between Garant and Lennon’s witty family-friendly humor and Wright’s more serious narrative and themes often makes Mr. Peabody feel like an odd pastiche of styles; however, the film manages to surf those choppy waters pretty smoothly most of the time, achieving the coveted status of an animated film that offers both kiddie fun and adult enjoyment – though neither aspect leaves all that much of an impression, once the movie is over.

Modern Family star Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy persona translates pretty well to a sophisticated animated dog like Mr. Peabody. In this adaptation, the character is more attentive and caring (instead of the cold intellectual depicted in the original animated shorts) and Burrell’s voice has both the energy and sensitivity to bring a dynamic and three-dimensional animated character to life. (Also, there are few actors working right now who can sell a cheesy pun better than Ty Burrell; he sounds so earnest each time he gets to crack one off, you almost feel heartless if you don’t at least chuckle.)

Ariel Winters in Mr Peabody Sherman Mr. Peabody & Sherman Review

Ty Burrell, Ariel Winters and Max Charles in ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’

Child actor Max Charles (Amazing Spider-ManThe Neighbors) is a good pick for Sherman. Charles (who has voiced a number of animated characters on Family Guy) is a prime match for both the energy and sensitivity of Burrell’s voice; when the more serious moments arrive, Charles delivers convincing angst and emotion with his words – not easy for one so young. (Surprisingly enough,  it is Burrell’s Modern Family co-star (and TV daughter) Ariel Winter whose voice doesn’t quite elevate Penny above being a bratty caricature.) Other voice cameos you’ll likely be straining an ear to place include Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Dennis Haysbert, Allison Janney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lake Bell, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton (of course!) and even a quick cameo by none other than Mel Brooks.

In the end, Mr. Peabody & Sherman will be fun (even slightly educational) for kids, and mostly passable for adults (if you don’t get hung up on some of the more hot-button issues laced into the story). Not Dreamworks’ best, but still better than a lot of animated features that other (non-Pixar) studios try to put into theaters. Peabody has a heart and mind, but compared to something like The LEGO Movie, this is definitely a second-tier contender for your dollar.

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman is now playing in theaters. It is 92 minutes long and Rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor.

Follow me and talk movie reviews @ppnkof

Our Rating:

3 out of 5
(Good)

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13 Comments

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  1. Was actually looking forward to this movie… but I think I should just wait for the home video and save my money for Winter Soldier. The reviews so far hasn’t been top notch, and I wanted to take my nephews but considering the subtitling process in my country didn’t do good for Cloudy 2 and The LEGO Movie (most of the jokes fell flat and unfunny in the translation, that I think the humor for these type of movie will work better for English speaking countries, or to those who understand English), I’m not sure they will enjoy it that much.
    Oh well… :(

  2. If your a parent, then take your kids to see this movie. Because this Match there will be only 2 films that kids can watch : this one & Muppets 2.
    Next April there will be Rio 2, which kids can enjoy as well.

  3. Dorky enough that yes, I will; watch this on my netflix list when available. I grew up watching the original cartoon, so why not? Might be mildly fun. (The main characters shooting out the Sphinx’ sphincter is worth giving it a watch in itself!)

  4. Now if only they’d do this for Dudley Doo-Right!!

    • +1 Dudley Do Right!

      • An animated Dudley Doo-Right? *shrugs* Sure why not. The last movie did wonderfully.

  5. I really didnt enjoy this film at all, i found it extremely boring and never really clicked. For me you either have to be really funny (lego movie) or have a lot of heart (Up) or in rare cases do both. (Toy story). This film lacked both for me so i was really dissapointed.

  6. Did the Doctor make an appearance anywhere?

  7. I admittedly giggled at the old school Mr. Peabody & Sherman shorts. Well, some of them anyway. But they really seem like pretty thin gruel on which to base a big-budget animated movie. The new dog and his boy look OK, but I’m fairly meh about plunking down a Jackson to go see it. I’ll wait for Netflix and/or Redbox.

  8. Well, when this released in the UK back on February 7th, it beat Robocop to the number 1 spot but only held that place for a week because The LEGO Movie released the very next week and dominated until last week so yeah, not a good time to release the movie (either just before LEGO in our case or a month after in the US).

  9. I don’t see how people liked the Lego Movie. For me it was boring and I fell asleep several times there were certain points where I laughed, but overall I won’t watch it again and left feeling that I watched the first disappointing movie so far in a year. The jokes didn’t make me laugh, the movie itself was too long, and I hated the live action parts that its just a boy playing with his dad set. Mr Peabody and Sherman at least kept my attention and I generally laughed at parts of it and the animation is 2x better.

  10. 1. First, I don’t understand the shameless promotion of NetFlix, or whatever it is, unless it’s shorthand for you to say that you just want to see it anywhere other than a normal public movie screening theatre.

    2. I grew up on the original TV series. I am very familiar with the subject matter.

    3. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

    4. Yes, some of the humor is not G-rated like the original. So you do have to put up with a small amount of that. Otherwise, I thank that everyone would enjoy it. It even has ancient Trojan warriors for the “300″ crowd!

  11. Well the movie caught my interest and it was captivating enough. Yes, the humor was a little wrong sometimes but it was an adorable story. I don’t know why people hate it so much.

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