Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Like most children of the 50s, the principal source of entertainment on television or cartoons. Although I did watch the animated shorts, originally intended as part of the full bill of entertainment in a movie theater, unequivocally my all-time favorite had to be ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. Aside from the moose and squirrel who served as the titular leads, there was a set of regular features that were equally amusing to kids and parents alike. I noticed by father would laugh at different places. During the show, something I didn’t fully understand until a few years ago that I had the pleasure to review the complete series set on DVD. There were puns and references specifically targeted towards the adult watching, yet through brilliant writing could also bring laughter to the children. This held true not only for the main stories, but for the associated features; ‘Fractured Fairytales’, ‘Dudley Doright’ and ‘Mr. Peabody’s improbable history. Over time, Rocky, Bullwinkle and their friends have found the array to feature-length movies. Until recently, the one glaring omission was a heartwarming history lesson of the dog in his boy, Mr. Peabody his boy Sherman. DreamWorks acquired the rights introduced in incredibly funny and nostalgic movie. First and foremost, it must be noted that this movie captured the magical essence of the original featurette, right down to the groan inducing puns. Best of all, the movie stands on its own as an entertaining film that will be highly entertaining to the part of the audience, not even born when the original was on television. As soon as the screen arrived a family viewing afternoon was scheduled much the delight of all in attendance.
Mr. Peabody, (voiced byTy Burrell), is one of the most amazing beings ever to live on this planet. A polymath genius he is athletic, innovative, and a humanitarian. He is also a dog. The opening montage of the film provides a brief synopsis of Mr. Peabody’s rejection as a pup. Due to this very un-canine like interests and pursuits made them unattractive to people who wanted to have a pet dog for the family. After achieving every accomplishment and crowned with every wall and award imaginable, from Nobel prizes to Olympic gold medals, Mr. Peabody felt something missing in his life until he found a baby boy abandoned in a cardboard box, Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). Wanting to be the best parent possible Mr. Peabody Dave Sherman the most eclectic education conceivable. When the time came to teach the boy history Mr. Peabody took the most unique course of action. The invented of time machine called the ‘WABAC’ (way back) machine. With that he took Sherman on journey through time and space, watching history unfold firsthand. While confined to their fabulously appointed Penthouse, Sherman was insulated from the real world, until the time came for him to attend school. Sherman is a pleasant outgoing boy, but unfamiliar with the social convention of limiting the truth for his own protection. When the history lesson came around to George Washington and the iconic cherry tree, Sherman deems the story apocryphal. This doesn’t sit well with the class know it all, Penny Peterson (voiced by Ariel Winter). She begins to belittle and harangue Sherman eventually calling him a dog, this pushes them over the edge and in a fit of ire, and he bites her arm.
Once she tells her parents, Paul (voiced by Stephen Colbert) and Patty (voiced by Leslie Mann), child services or called in with the intention of removing Sherman and revoking Mr. Peabody’s legal custody. In an attempt to ameliorate the disastrous pending legal action Mr. Peabody invites the Petersons for a lavish dinner in his Penthouse. In the living room, Mr. Peabody skill in chiropractic resulted in the alleviation of a chronic painful condition in Paul. From that point evening goes on exceptionally well with Mr. Peabody proving to be the most delightful and entertaining host ever. Meanwhile, the children retire to Sherman’s room to wait for dinner. Penny begins to pressure Sherman as of the source of his unusually specific knowledge of George Washington. Confused, he finally bribes out that Mr. Peabody invented a time machine and he heard the facts from George Washington himself. Despite a specific admonition against showing Penny the WABAC machine, she not only the man seeing it with cajoles Sherman into taking her a trip to the past. The next thing you know, Sherman is running into the living room excitedly disturbed shouting that they have to rescue Penny. It seems that he left her in ancient Egypt.
After hypnotizing the Petersons, Mr. Peabody takes Sherman on a rescue mission back to the time of King Tut (voiced by Zach Callison), the boy King. When Penny discovers that of royal fiancé will die at a very young age, and that she will be disemboweled and mummified with him, she is anxious to return home. At this point, hilarious mayhem of the movie shifts into high gear. Mr. Peabody impersonates the God of death. Anubis, demanding the girl is rejected as the royal bride. When that ploy literally falls through, Mr. Peabody and the kids managed to get away in the WABAC. They need to refuel forces them to make a stop in Renaissance Florence were Mr. Peabody seek the assistance of his old friend Leonardo da Vinci (voiced by Stanley Tucci), was more than glad to assist at the Mr. Peabody manages to help get a smile out of a reluctant Mona Lisa (voiced by Lake Bell).
Now there are a few side trips and divergence that bring the trio to the events that sparked the French Revolution and from there an inadvertent proximity to a black hole forces them back to the Trojan War. We Sherman decides to join the Army hiding in the Trojan horse. Eventually the story playfully parodies one of the more perplexing time paradoxes that have plagued the storylines science-fiction, crossing the time stream in meeting yourself. This occurs when Penny and Sherman try to travel back to a minute before they originally stole the WABAC machine. This sets up the storyboards dénouement of a time vortex and black hole appearing overhead dropping the various people they met on their journey into the present and pulling everything up to be annihilated by the black hole. While the cuff remark from Sherman proved to be just the inspiration Mr. Peabody needs to save the day. In one of many nods to the original show a street cleaner can be seen sweeping up at the very end.
For number of years now I have noticed a discernible trend involving animated films migrating from the traditional cartoons into a substantial means cinematic artistic expression. The significant numbers of these new animated features are imbued with such quality in every aspect of production that they now realistically rival real action movies. Some of these animated feature films relate such amazingly well-crafted stories that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was moved to create an Oscar specifically the best animated picture. While this movie is not quite up to the standards required to receive an Academy award, it is nonetheless an amazingly well-made film. It holds together as an example of an animated movie that truly works from a cinematic perspective. While much of the target demographic is aimed towards young people today, there is no denying the fact that deliberate efforts were made to infuse the story with nostalgic references that are sure to bring a smile to the faces of us baby boomers. There little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout such as glimpses of Bullwinkle and Dudley Doright’s horse that may understandably go unnoticed by the children.
The animation style is similar to most of DreamWorks productions with rounded characters whose shapes it even more noticeable in 3-D. Even with that concession to modern animation, the true essence of the original Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoons remains faithfully in tack. I don’t recall many scenes depicting the WABC machine or view of his journey through time, but with a little nod to the TARDIS, the effect is nicely presented. The same can be said about the numerous animated sets that range from modern-day New York City to ancient Egypt in the sewers of 18th-century Paris. As with almost all the 3-D films presented by DreamWorks, and their biggest rival, Disney/Pixar, the use of the illusion of depth is impeccable. Most filmmakers specializing in live-action 3-D movies are still on a learning curve as to how best to use this technique seamlessly as an aspect of storytelling. The director of this film, Rob Minkoff, as used 3-D in such a remarkably realistic fashion that there are times you forget you are watching a 3-D movie and you were just drawn into the story. Of course, there are times when various objects are pushed out of the plane of the film directly at the audience, but unlike many 3-D features, both animated in real life, this visual device is used to accentuate not drive the visual environment. The audio is also nicely mixed so that the sound does flow from one speaker to the next, giving the audience a fully immersive experience. The term, ‘fun for all ages’ may be overused but in this case, it is entirely accurate.