Cocktails and Movies Review: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” – A Classic Romp In A Modern Context…For Kids!

by Mike Reyes

Mr. Peabody And Sherman polishes up an old apple… You’ll love it as much as your kids

Mr_Peabody_&_Sherman_PosterMr. Peabody And Sherman is one of those classic cartoons that fans love and Hollywood loves to remake. It’s also the fourth film adaptation of a Rocky and Bulwinkle associated property, coming after Boris and Natasha, The Adventures of Rocky and Bulwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right. There’s a lot of hate for the previous three, considering audiences at large either weren’t into the comedic stylings of said properties or those that were felt that their memories were tarnished. (Though I’ll still make a case for the goofy fun that is Rocky and Bullwinkle.) To a certain extent, those films might not have worked because they were live action adaptations of animated properties. After all, to translate a cartoon into reality is a task that essentially robs a property of some of the magical logic that inhabits the world of a cartoon. Certain things are unforgivable, certain things look silly, and some things even look incredibly stupid. If that’s not bad enough, there’s also the risk taking move of making said adaptation of a classic source material with the added dimension of modern humor. Some of it reads too vulgar, some times it’s dumbed down, and other times it just misses the mark of the actual spirit of the material. Thankfully, Mr. Peabody and Sherman manages to side step all of those pitfalls to deliver a fun adventure that works the mechanics of time travel and the jokes of Animaniacs into its very fabric.

After a rough life of depending on himself (due to his hyperintelligent nature), Mr. Peabody (Ty Burell) adopts his boy Sherman (Max Charles). Immediately he goes from being merely an academic canine to being the best Dad he can possibly be. Which means, he’s naturally going to want to raise his child to be as smart as he is. Which also means, at least in his eyes, that the greatest gift he can give his son is the gift of first hand knowledge. To further facilitate this quest for knowledge, he creates his greatest invention… which is saying a lot considering he invented the fist bump, planking, auto tune, and Zumba. His ultimate invention? The Time Machine, or as he likes to call it “The WABAC Machine.” (That’s pronounced “Way Back”, for the uninitiated.) Peabody and Sherman go on many amazing adventures through the advent of the WABAC, but their greatest adventures lie ahead, if you can believe it. Girls, grades, and geopolitical temporal paradoxes all await them as Mr. Peabody continues to try and convince the world that not only is he the best dad Sherman could ever ask for, but he’s the type of mind that can fix things when the chips are down.

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I’ve always been one of those people who’s loved classic animation that’s before my time, and much like the severely underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action, I found Mr. Peabody And Sherman to be a welcome update to a property that was busting with whimsy and clever humor. Director Rob Minkoff and his team bring all of that, and then some, to the table. The puns are still here, the dynamic between Mr. Peabody and Sherman is still there, even Mr. Peabody’s voice is a pretty close match to the original performance. In fact, the entire voice cast in this film manages to be convincing in their roles, as well as conveying the comedy without working too hard for the laugh. A lot of animated films will play the sight gags or the puns very broadly, as if to say “these are the jokes kids, laugh.” Much like Mr. Peabody’s treatment of his son, the film demands the mental power that children are so rarely called upon to display with mere “cartoon” movies. And believe me, this film has quite a bit for children to wrap their heads around.

For starters, the mechanics of Time Travel 101 are on full display here, and they aren’t dumbed down for anyone. Luckily, it’s a concept that if you explain it with the right words, it’s not hard to explain to a layman… or their kids. On top of the science fiction conceit, we have the story of a hyper-intelligent dog who everyone knows is a hyper-intelligent dog and the world that’s against his right to adopt a child. Normally, the “unfit parent” subplot would probably be the one that drags the film into melodramatic territory, but with this film a fine line is walked rather well. The film acknowledges, again, that Mr. Peabody is a dog with above average intelligence, as well as acknowledging that his adoption of a human child is rather unorthodox. They even go as far as depicting a legal result that allows the adoption to go through in the first place. On top of time travel and adoption, history is taught to children through out the film’s adventure. Notable historical figures like Leonardo DaVinci or King Tut appear, and details are given about the worlds they lived in and the societies they inhabited. Though, thankfully the film lets historical accuracy and good humor go hand in hand, and while this movie didn’t lead to a lot of belly laughs from the children in the audience, it was a film that still managed to get a lot of applause from an audience of mostly parents and their children.

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In fact, the only way I’d fault this film is that it didn’t really stop and breathe for too long. It zips along from time to time and place to place, with a lot of jokes and absolutely beautiful images to fill your eyes and mind with. But it did seem a little cotton candy-ish as it doesn’t really make a strong Pixar-esque connection with the material, opting for the pre-requisite amount of heart. (Also, and this is a minor note, Danny Elfman’s score was decent this round, but it almost felt like he was copying a little too much from his own work on another Time Travel/Adoption story, Meet The Robinsons, which would make a PERFECT double feature with this film.) Mr. Peabody and Sherman avoids the typical animated movie cliches, as well as the ones that come with turning a classic into a modern product, and it does so with style. It is probably the best kids’ movie on the market right now, and it is an absolute delight to take your kids to. They’ll love the jokes and the scenery, you’ll love the jokes and the story. It is, above all, a Saturday Morning Cartoon movie that fully understands what made Saturday Morning Cartoons special.

My Rating: 4/5