Thursday, February 5, 2015

Movie Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun historical stops and puns
Cons: The surrounding story is too forced
The Bottom Line:
New comers might like
But those who know history
Will like shorts better

“This is No Time for Puns!  Even Good Ones.”

I thought it was trouble when they announced the movie.  How do you take a four to five minute segment and turned it into a full-fledged movie?  It just wouldn’t work, right?  Still, I heard some good things about Mr. Peabody & Sherman and decided a rental would be a great way to find out what the movie was all about.  It worked better than I thought it would, but not rushing out to see it was wise on my part.

For those who don’t know the original source material, “Peabody’s Improbable History” was a segment on the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show from the 1960’s.  But you don’t need to know much about it because the movie starts off introducing us to Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell), the world’s smartest dog who adopts Sherman (Max Charles) as a baby.  This leads to his greatest invention, the WABAC machine, which he and Sherman use to experience history.  Of course, history doesn’t always start out the way we all know, and at times Peabody has to nudge it in the right direction.

But our story really picks up on Sherman’s first day of school.  He runs afoul of Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter), and winds up biting her.  With the authorities now thinking that Mr. Peabody isn’t fit to raise a boy, everything the two love might fall apart.  So Peabody invites the girl and her family over for dinner.  However, Penny isn’t willing to stop goading Sherman until he finally reveals the truth about the WABAC machine.  Soon, Penny, Sherman, and Mr. Peabody are racing through time trying to get home safely.  Can they do it?

The plot works to give us several fun historical stops over the course of the movie including ancient Egypt and Greece as well as a visit to Leonardo da Vinci.  As always, I enjoyed these, especially since they still managed to work in Peabody’s groan inducing puns.

Now, I get they need to figure out a way to stitch these segments together.  However, I’m not sure this particular story was the way to go.  It felt too forced and heavy handed to me.  Plus the attempts to develop Peabody and Sherman as characters felt too contrived.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to them being fairly flat over the course of all those segments from the show.  It’s not that they are bad characters, but they are more straight men for the antics of the wacky historical figures.  To see them treated as more serious characters just felt wrong.

The computer animation is highly stylized, but it’s fun.  This isn’t the realistic animation you will see other places, but it never gets in the way of the story.

The voice cast is great at bring their characters to life.  I have to give special praise to the leads who did a wonderful job capturing the voices of their characters from the TV show.  After the first minute, I felt like I was listening to the original actors.

I think those who aren’t familiar with the originals would really enjoy Mr. Peabody & Sherman.  Those who are used to the shorts will probably feel like I do – the movie works, but these characters were better in smaller doses.

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