By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I vaguely remember the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons as a kid (happens with age), and honestly don’t even remember the Peabody’s Improbably History Segments that appeared on the Bullwinkle shows. As usual, I like to do a little research when I review a film based on unfamiliar material. I must say that this modern, computer animated version of Peabody & Sherman really captures the style and, often, the humor and wit of the old cartoons. Even though, I am now forty years old and I saw this film with all of its modern bells and whistles, I felt like a kid again laughing at some old school cartoon humor and gags that I once enjoyed on weekdays after school and on Saturday mornings in my pajamas. The 2014 version of Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an absolute treat that both grownups and kids will certainly enjoy.
The most brilliant dog, and perhaps mind in the world, Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell), has many well respected accomplishments on his resume, but feels compelled to adopt a human child for a son, as he was once an orphan as well. Sherman (Max Charles), his adopted son, is also smarter than the average elementary school child, as he has had the advantage of studying history in person, thanks to his father’s incredible time traveling device. When a bullying incident on Sherman’s first day of school puts Mr. Peabody and his parenting skills under scrutiny by a child protective services worker, Peabody hopes to set things straight. He invites the other child involved, Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter), and her parents Paul (Stephen Colbert) and Patty (Leslie Mann) to dinner in his home in an attempt to charm them and perhaps get the two children to play together nicely. When a history argument leads Sherman to taking Penny back in time to prove her wrong, things go terribly wrong and it is up to Mr. Peabody to save the day.
Based on the characters and cartoon segments created by Ted Key and Jay Ward, Rob Minkoff directs with a screenplay by Craig Wright, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Having the late Jay Ward’s daughter Tiffany serve as an executive producer proves to be an excellent decision, as her input serves the movie well in recreating the comic style of the original cartoons. Not all of the jokes work well, but most of them had me laughing and smiling during the runtime. I must offer much praise to Minkoff and his crew for the stunning visuals in the film. The computer animation and 3D effects look amazing. Minkoff utilizes the 3D for some fun and exciting sight gags.
The superb voice cast has exceptional comic timing and great vocal skills in making their characters even more vibrant than their colorful visual representations. Ty Burrell is absolutely perfect as the intelligent, rational and charming Mr. Peabody. In addition to this standout is an impressive list of voice talents, some of which are easily recognizable. In addition to Burrell and the others mentioned above, listen for awesome voice work by Stephen Tobolowski, LakeBell, Allison Janney, Dennis Haysbert, Stanley Tucci, and Patrick Warburton.
Normally, I don’t recommend watching 3D versions of movies, but this one is definitely worth the addition price. Obviously people, who get headaches or suffer from motion sickness with 3D presentations, should still see the 2D version. Parents, who often dread having to take their children to lame and juvenile movies, should find much joy and entertainment here, as the humor ranges from the juvenile to some historical and mature jokes that may go over their kids’ heads. Fans of the classic cartoon segments, or just classic cartoons in general will have a greater appreciation of the comedy and sharp wit.