Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Family flick still cuts clever for the adults in the theatre
Metro Reel Guys by Richard Crouse and Steve Gow
SYNOPSIS: Based on characters from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, the movie stars the voice of Modern Family’s Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody, a beagle who is also the world’s smartest being. Imagine “Family Guy’s” Brian with less attitude but more PhDs. When his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) bites schoolmate Penny (Ariel Winter) Peabody tries to smooth things by throwing a dinner for Penny’s parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann). His party plan is almost derailed when Sherman and Penny hijack the WABAC device, a time machine that takes them to ancient Egypt and the Trojan War. Can Mr. Peabody rescue them before Penny’s parents notice she’s gone and the space-time continuum is irreparably destroyed?
Richard: 4 Stars
Steve: 3 Stars
Richard: Steve, Mr. Peabody & Sherman lacks the political bent of the original Jay Ward cartoon series, but it is loaded with references from literature, history and popular culture. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and I can’t imagine a Minion punning, “Marie Antoinette could have kept her head if she had issued an edict to distribute bread to the poor. But you can’t have your cake and edict too.” Which means it is stuffed with the spirit of Ward, which is a good thing, even if it does veer off path with a sentimental father and son subplot. What did you think?
Steve: I agree 100% Richard. In fact, by dipping its proverbial toe into that father-son subplot, the film dares to touch on what other family films like Finding Nemo or The Incredibles have done better. Still, the movie’s meteoric pace never lingers too long on any facet of the film and its niche truly is the ceaseless nods to historical events. My favorite had to be a clever throwback to Spartacus.
RC: I know the history element sounds dangerously educational for a mainstream kid’s flick, but the movie’s trips back to ancient Egypt, the Trojan War and Leonardo Di Vinci’s studio where they discover the secret of Mona Lisa’s smile are really fun. They are made doubly so by great voice work. As the dim witted general Agamemnon Patrick Warburton really stands out. He started the confident dumb guy routine on Seinfeld and uses it to hilarious effect here.
SG: And for those who remember the old Bullwinkle series, Ty Burrell does a pretty decent job voicing the movie’s canine savant. Even more successful are the comedy’s captivating visuals especially the way director Rob Minkoff works the 3D to capture the measure of epic Trojan battles or traveling through the time-space continuum and not simply for eye-catching sight gags.
RC: The animation is top notch and like the best of Ward’s work, Mr. Peabody & Sherman realizes that the material has to work on multi levels, the surface and the satirical. Like the Lego Movie, I think this movie will appeal to kids and adults.
SG: Again, I agree. The movie is a peppy, playful ride through history for all ages. In fact, it probably won’t hurt either that most everyone in the audience will barely remember the old Bullwinkle cartoon.