Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman photo starrating-2stars.jpgIn both spirit and style, the feature film Mr. Peabody & Sherman bears little resemblance to the 5 minute cartoons on which it’s based. The brief segments called Peabody’s Improbable History, first aired during The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in the 1960s. The rudimentary shorts were characterized by primitive artwork and hilarious puns. The writing was snarky and sarcastic. DreamWorks Animation has kept the same basic set-up, but not the tone. Mr. Peabody is a talking dog – athlete, inventor, scientist, and all around super-brain. He has a adopted a 7 year boy named Sherman as his son. The two time-travel back in time meeting famous figures of ancient times. There are a lot, but among those getting significant screen time are Marie Antoinette, Maximilien de Robespierre, King Tut, King Agamemnon, and Leonardo da Vinci. There’s also a subplot concerning an antagonistic school counselor named Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney) who doesn’t think a dog is a fitting guardian for a boy. These are welcome additions but the cast is populated with unwelcome personalities too. Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter) is a female classmate of Sherman’s that acts as a bully turned friend. She’s thoroughly annoying and completely unnecessary.

What sets Mr. Peabody and Sherman apart is the anarchistic sense of humor, sexual innuendos only an adult would get, and some mild potty humor. And no, those distinctions are not an improvement.  A Trojan horse appears to be pooping when Greek soldiers exit its rear. “Well Sherman, it looks like we were the butt of that joke” says Mr. Peabody when they shoot out of the back end of the sphinx. Even Bill Clinton pops up to sheepishly admit “I did worse” referencing activities best not even alluded to in a children’s cartoon.  The script has regrettably jettisoned the sophisticated wit of the source material. That’s a shame because this could’ve been an irreverent but educational romp through history. The rather lowbrow take seen here is only tepidly amusing in parts. I suspect a child will respond more favorably to the colorful animation and poop jokes. As I sat watching the seemingly endless credits, I marveled at the sheer number of people involved to create such a derivative product. It’s visually pretty. I enjoyed the look of the action, but story wise it’s an uninspired trip thorough the past.  This has been done much more successfully before. The climax in particularly is obviously lifted by writers raised on 80s comedies. I liked Mr. Peabody & Sherman…………when it was called Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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13 Responses to “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”

  1. Yes, I had seen some very positive reviews about this but I still couldn’t muster any excitement or interest for it. This gets at the reason why. Love the review.

  2. Nice review. This looked like another tacky update on a tv show. What will convince Hollywood to stop doing these remakes?

  3. Just recently saw (and reviewed) this myself (so recently that I haven’t even advertised the review’s existence yet).

    For the most part, I agree with you. This flick is without an audience – it is too smart for a child and not deep enough for an adult. It isn’t all that necessary or inventive.

    Our only disagreement? I think Penny the movie’s biggest merit.

  4. Spot on review Mark, Penny really did on my nerves too. And the trip we take back into the past is, ignoring the fact that this is a part of the movie that tries to cram way too much into not enough time, a somewhat boring adventure. Too predictable. And there’s not enough for adults to be pleased with. Kids I think are going to pretty much confuse it with every other subpar animated flick they’ve seen, too.

    Next please.

  5. I love and agree with your review, however, I kinda enjoyed it. Ty Burrell is always very funny. I will give it 3 stars.

  6. Bill Clinton? What a random reference in a kids movie. I enjoyed the Mr. Peabody shorts on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show growing up, so I’m disappointed that they go for lowbrow humor in the film adaptation. Although I’m not entirely surprised. I wasn’t in a rush to see this movie before, and I’m certainly not now that I’ve read your review. Thanks for taking one for the team on this one Mark.

    • There’s such huge money to be made in animated films these days. Apparently even middling efforts like this and last year’s Epic can do over $100 million dollars.

      • Hearing this makes me sad. :( But I guess I understand why. When it comes to animated films, there’s a guaranteed audience because parents are always looking for movies to take their kids to. There are usually much fewer options for them.

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