Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Posted by Joel Copling on March 7, 2014

The relationship in the title of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is where a majority of the film's heart is located. Sure, the central premise of this adaptation of Jay Ward's series of segments from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show," titled "Peabody's Improbable History," is that a dog adopts a boy through legal means and raises him via trips through time and space--an outlandish premise, certainly, but given the proper weight through screenwriter Craig Wright's efforts to balance the sickly sweet with the raucously funny. He isn't always successful in everything he attempts, but he and director Rob Minkoff have nailed the most important element of the film's emotional center, which makes flaws elsewhere easy enough to forgive.

Mr. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) might be an adult dog, and Sherman (voice of Max Charles) might be a human child, but the two have built a lasting father-son relationship ever since the former, a prize-winning scientist and inventor, found the latter abandoned as an infant. Mr. Peabody's other most-prized possession is his WABAC, a time machine that he uses to give Sherman fairly direct history lessons, whether it be visiting with Mahatma Gandhi or learning under the tutelage of Albert Einstein (voice of Mel Brooks). But an incident with a bully named Penny (voice of Ariel Winter) on Sherman's first day of school lands Mr Peabody's custody of Sherman under the microscope of the evil Ms. Grunion (voice of Allison Janney).

This leads to an intervention on Mr. Peabody's part in the form of a dinner party for Penny's parents, Paul and Patty (voices of Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann). While they and Mr. Peabody dine in the kitchen, Sherman shows Penny the WABAC, resulting in Penny being trapped in ancient Egypt, engaged to be married to King Tut (voice of Zach Callison). This propels Mr. Peabody and Sherman on a mission to rescue her, which takes all three of them on a wacky adventure through history during which they also encounter Leonardo da Vinci (voice of Stanley Tucci) as he attempts to paint a humorless Mona Lisa (voice of Lake Bell) and Agamemnon (voice of Patrick Warburton) as he leads a battalion into the Trojan War.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is strongest when focused upon the familial aspect of the titular relationship, instigated when Penny insults Sherman for being a dog since his father is one and given further conflict when he realizes the occasionally strenuous boundaries that Mr. Peabody places upon him and that will eventually be erased when Sherman also realizes his own full potential (a gift for flying the WABAC, for instance). Sherman's budding relationship with Penny is cute but barebones, too reliant on the Wright's contrivances for an antagonistic relationship to make a 180. As for the central gimmick of hopping through history, it is highly amusing but repetitive and chaotic. Thank goodness, though, that "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a title thoroughly explored by the film to which it belongs.

Film Information

Ty Burrell (Mr. Peabody), Max Charles (Sherman), Ariel Winter (Penny Peterson), Stephen Colbert (Paul Peterson), Leslie Mann (Patty Peterson), Allison Janney (Ms. Grunion), Stephen Tobolowsky (Principal Purdy), Mel Brooks (Albert Einstein), Stanley Tucci (Leonardo da Vinci), Patrick Warburton (Agamemnon), Lake Bell (Mona Lisa), Zach Callison (King Tut), Lauri Fraser (Marie Antoinette/Egyptian Woman), Guillaume Aretos (Robespierre), Dennis Haysbert (Judge).

Directed by Rob Minkoff and written by Craig Wright, based on the series produced by Jay Ward.

Rated PG (mild action, brief rude humor).

92 minutes.

Released on March 7, 2014.