Mr. Peabody & Sherman is the story of a dog and his boy, an animated adventure based on a segment from 1960s’ The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show in which Mr. Peabody, the world’s smartest person who happens to be a talking dog, taught kids something about history by visiting other time periods using his WABAC machine. The movie takes this premise and runs with it, which makes for a witty and charming film.
The opening immediately sets the tone: Mr. Peabody and his adopted son Sherman visit the times of the French Revolution, encountering Marie Antoinette and Robespierre, caricatures of their real-life counterparts that make you laugh while Peabody talks Sherman through the significance of the time period. It’s lighthearted, somewhat educational and eventually leads to a chase and a fencing scene, immediately letting you know the film’s priority is mostly to entertain and to keep things moving, not so much teaching the younger viewers the ins and outs of its historical settings. It’s a wise decision: because of it the film’s never dull and it offers kids just enough to make them curious about the past. Older viewers will appreciate a lot of the jokes aimed at them, from puns to Indiana Jones and 300 references. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a film that has something to offer to viewers of every age, packaged in a vivid and colorful computer animation style.
By nature the movie does feel like a Saturday morning cartoon though: Mr. Peabody and Sherman travel from time period to time period, giving the film a very serialized feel. It’s a movie that consists of segments, held together by a flimsy overarching plot that also tries to give the film some weight but lacks the depth and development to do so. The story: Sherman’s bullied at school because his father is a dog and in an effort to smooth things over Peabody invites the girl in question and her parents to dinner. When Sherman tells her of the WABAC, problems ensue of course: she transports herself to Ancient Egypt and it’s up to the titular duo to rescue her. What follows is a run-of-the-mill plot you’ve seen a million times before, but it is a fairly adequate one: it efficiently sets up the dynamics and kicks off the adventure. Because the main characters are as nicely drawn as they are, really brought to life by the talents of Ty Burrell and Max Charles respectively, the story works better than you would think it would at first glance. But it still lacks the staying power and some movie magic to set it apart from other superior animated movies.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is fun for everyone, but it does lack the depth or emotional weight of some of its contemporaries. It’s a nice adventure, but it won’t stick with you for long. 7/10