A few weeks ago we got “The LEGO Movie,” an animated feature that looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Since its release, however, the film has become a box office hit and received praise from virtually every human being on the planet, myself included. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is another family movie that seemed destined to flop at first glance. A modern day 3-D extravaganza based on a 1960s cartoon that was never even so great to begin with? I smell another “Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
Against all the odds, though, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is actually a pleasant surprise from DreamWorks Animation. It doesn’t completely hit it out of the park like “The LEGO Movie” or the Oscar-winning “Frozen.” But it is much better than any “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” movie has any right to be.
For all those who didn’t grow up watching “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” Mr. Peabody is a sophisticated, talking dog who’s a scholar in everything from history, to engineering, to culinary arts, to time traveling. He’s all Brian the dog from “Family Guy” ever aspired to be. Peabody, voiced here by Ty Burrell of “Modern Family,” adopts a young boy named Sherman (Max Charles), who’s always eager to learn although he occasionally forgets to use his brain. Some people question whether it’s ethically right for a dog to raise a child. Of course the more pressing questions are how a dog can talk, why doesn’t the government seize his time machine, and what will happen to Sherman when Mr. Peabody dies at 14 of old age. Then again, none of that really needs to be addressed in a film like this.
Peabody and Sherman have a number of escapades across time in the WACAC Machine. Sherman misguidedly shows the time traveling device to Penny, his classmate/rival voiced by Ariel Winter. From there, the film plays out like a series of vignettes along the lines of “History of the World: Part 1” meets “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” The gang crosses paths with the likes of Stanley Tucci as Leonardo da Vinci, Zach Callison as King Tut, and, best of all, Patrick Warburton as a thickheaded King Agamemnon.
There’s also a nice moral in there about unlikely families and what it means to be a parent. But much like “Despicable Me 2,” “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is really more about just making the audience laugh and that’s not at all a bad thing. Director Rod Minkoff of “The Lion King” pumps the film with colorful animation, fun characters, clever gags, and plenty of hyper cartoon action to go around. “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” offers no more and no less, delivering exactly what the target audience desires. If that sounds like your cup of tea, the film should be something you’ll really like.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.