From the psychedelic minds of the 1960s came Peabody’s Improbably History, a short segment in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that featured a droppy-eyed beagle who travels time with his adopted son Sherman. Dreamworks Studios decided to take a lesson from Mr. Peabody, traveling back in time through those old segments to reanimate the smartest being in existence for a new adventure filled with impressive 3D technology and more puns than you can shake a pee-soaked leg at. Mr. Peabody, a dog born with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, uses his spare time to become a renaissance man developing an expertise in nearly every topic imaginable. Yet, without a family to call his own, Mr. Peabody adopts and raises Sherman with whom he shares his brains and adventures.
Conflict begins brewing when Sherman starts his first day of school. Happily in tow with his Stephen Hawking lunchbox, Sherman’s historical aptitude makes him a target for jealous, spoiled classmate Penny. When Penny berates Sherman, calling him a dog in front of the school, he defends himself, resulting in the school’s principal threatening to remove Sherman from Mr. Peabody if an upcoming home visit doesn’t go well. Attempting to smooth things over, Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her family over to prove dogs are man’s best friend. But, when a nervous Sherman is forced to confront Penny, he makes the mistake of showing her the WABAC machine, a time traveling device invented by Mr. Peabody. The WABAC kickstarts a chain of events that spiral out of control when a visit to Egypt proves too much for Penny and Sherman. Mr. Peabody and Sherman must travel the depths of space and time to fix the mess they continuously cause in different eras.
If you’re an adult taking your children to see Mr. Peabody & Sherman, chances are you’ll enjoy it way more than them. If fact, Mr. Peabody & Sherman doesn’t cater to its younger crowd much at all considering most of its humor and gags are rooted in sarcasm, puns, and history lessons which gives the film an air of sophistication and innovation. In a theater mixed with families and only a few of us older childless patrons, the adults laughed more than the kids, although the kids were outspoken enough to loudly (and wrongly) predict outcomes and repeat lines. Craig Wright’s witty screenplay embodies the simple pleasure of revisiting moments in history from the old cartoons, but mixes it with very modern, socially relevant humor. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is the best of both worlds; catering to high-brow humor through its historical puns and play on famous figures and it perfects moments of low-brow humor through its multitude of poop jokes that are sure to make people of all ages laugh. When the trio visit Troy in 1184 BC, they join the Greeks in the Trojan Horse. The door is opened and the Greeks drop out one by one. From a long shot it is revealed the door is under the tail of the wooden horse.
“Listen to me Sherman, if you don’t learn anything here today, learn this: Poop jokes NEVER get old!”
Mr. Peabody & Sherman reminded me of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, just way funnier and more educational. Wright develops Mr. Peabody to be lovable and compassionate to Sherman, despite Mr. Peabody’s astounding brilliance. He’s never condescending and only marginally arrogant but only because he’s aware of his capabilities. Mr. Peabody & Sherman also moves with exceptional pace, never staying too long in one era or wearing out jokes. Right when I thought things were getting too safe as if handling situations with kid gloves, Wright delivers a handful of twists into the story to emote pure concern for the well-being of the characters we follow. When a vulnerable position puts Mr. Peabody’s life in danger, a kid in the theater arrogantly shouted, “He’s not dead, he’s going to pop up behind him!” Wright brilliantly proves himself much smarter than the expectations of a 7-year-old and delivers surprising alternatives and conclusions given the mass of knowledge those within and watching the film possess.
The only thing they taught me in their “excellent adventure” is that sometimes sequels are far superior.
Wright’s detailing of Mr. Peabody is matched by Chris Minkoff’s stylistic direction that blew me away and made me reevaluate my long term weary stance on 3D films.The co-director of The Lion King, Minkoff is meticulous when handling details within the film’s imagery, like showing the ridges on Mr. Peabody’s nose and every individual leaf on the tops of trees as they sway in unison together. Minkoff exposes the thought process and use of deductive thinking from Mr. Peabody’s brain through elaborate visual explanations and charts which are only highlighted by the 3D animation.
Initially I was annoyed at having to pay $31 to see Mr. Peabody & Sherman all because my partner was gung-ho on seeing it in 3D. However, considering that I muttered expletives more than you should in a kids film due to my amazement at the use of depth of field, I’d say it’s worth seeing with 3D. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a reminder of how 3D is steadily evolving beyond projecting images at audiences for cheap thrills. Instead it’s become a tool to exaggerate the action being seen and literally include audiences through the clever use of infinite zoom and breathtaking long shots that place us directly in the midst of particular space.
It ain’t nothin’ but the dog in me.
Although Mr. Peadody is fantastic in its execution, its shortcomings are more than obvious. For starters, the “See You Next Tuesday” of a character Penny. At only 7 years old, Penny has a chip on her shoulder that’s bigger than her head. She possesses an undeserved sense of privilege and entitlement. She wears makeup as though she understands the social construction of beauty. She ignores logical risks and isn’t in tune with the realities of life and death. She’s s a bully and a mean-spirited person willing to do anything to get her way. In short, Penny is the archetype bitch and probably a sociopath. I understand that she’s needed to be the catalyst to get the film’s plot moving and conflict boiling, but there are better ways of doing so through other character quirks that don’t consist of a character being a villain just because. Furthermore, her lack of development made me less empathetic and caring towards her. Even though she makes the typical transformation one would expect of a film of this nature, her bitchiness was so aggravating that I refused to forgive her deeds by the end.
“My dad should rip you to kibbles and bits.”
Another weak aspect of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is its inability to give much description for any of the characters, even though Mr. Peabody is pretty well-rounded and thought out. We never known why Mr. Peabody is able to rise above the brain capacity of others in his species or even humans. It’s never discussed why he’s able to retain and learn information at lighting speed, allowing him to be a master of culinary arts, history, science, physics, mixology, sports, and exercise. He just is, an element that’s acceptable in a kid’s movie, but a lazy choice.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman isn’t your typical kids film, in fact it honestly shouldn’t be seen by anyone under 12 as its likely to go right over a child’s head as the topics of war, economics, and politics are the main theme. However, considering you’re probably an adult reading this and I’m telling you to drink while you watch it, it’s pretty clean, smart humor that’s engaging and hilarious. And yes, if you toss back a few beforehand you’ll likely be laughing out loud and amazed.
Take a Drink: every time you want to give Penny a swirly.
Do a Shot: every time they visit a new time period.
Take a Drink: every time you learn something you’d completely forgotten. Like why “let them eat cake” was an important statement.
Take a Drink: every time a character unreasonably reacts out of spite.