Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman / Cert: U / Director: Rob Minkoff / Screenplay: Craig Wright / Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter / Release Date: February 7th
There are certain readers out there who will see the images and adverts for DreamWorks’ Mr. Peabody & Sherman and not even realise it is based on anything. And why should they? The advertising has not even alluded to these characters’ roots and thus it seems this is only a big occasion for the party faithful. To fill in anyone in the dark, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is based on the Peabodies' improbable history segments that were a regular part of the late '50s/early '60s Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series. The premise was simple, the world’s smartest dog (award-winning scientist, Olympian and businessman) Mr. Peabody adopted an orphan boy called Sherman and together the two travelled through history using their own time machine.
Here things are a little different. The father-son dynamic between Mr. Peabody (Burrell) and Sherman (Charles) is far more dwelt upon and there are certain differences to the source material throughout. The plot sees Peabody and Sherman encounter trouble throughout history when Sherman’s classmate Penny (Winter) gets in between the two time travellers. Mr. Peabody & Sherman in some senses is a hard sell, in a market stuffed with animated features, but in many other ways is easy peasy – talking dog, time travel, Leonardo da Vinci acting like a prat... While fans born and bred on the original cartoons will undoubtedly find fault in the character tweaks, voices and plot, there is a lot to enjoy in Minkoff’s film.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is warm, unoffending, family viewing. The film offers some very worthwhile and admirable messages for younger audiences, about respecting parental figures and accepting our guardians. Its greatest achievement is that it might just engage kids in certain historical events, whilst adults can have a chuckle at some of Peabody’s delightfully corny puns (who doesn’t love a punning Beagle?) and historical observations.
Undoubtedly the film has its problems, of which there are a few. For instance, the plot is zippy and energetic but the final third really becomes somewhat chaotic, combining too many historical figures and elements for its own good. As well as this, the character of Penny initially grinds your gears – it was not the best tactic, introducing her in a somewhat realistic bullying scene. The plot is pretty unoriginal, and so the parental issues and adventurous mishaps are all as expected; that being said we shouldn’t forget the intended audience. As a family offering Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a nice safe bet for fun. At 92 minutes the pace is steady, the 3D is not garish and despite some liberties with the source material, this is not the hatchet job that Top Cat – The Movie 3D was (no prison rape gags here, thankfully).
If you were to draw a direct comparison to any other film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is like 2001’s Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. The energy is constant, the voice work is snappy (particularly Burrell as the Sherlockian pooch Peabody) and Craig Wright’s screenplay is incessantly silly but occasionally warm, witty and it even makes time for a slight Raiders of the Lost Ark homage. You may not be talking about Peabody & Sherman when 2014 ends and it makes no solid impact of any kind but you’ll have inoffensive fun with the family and that has to be worth the trip. Plus you get an amusing Oedipus gag, can’t be bad!
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10