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Mr. Peabody is a business titan, inventor, scientist, gourmand, two-time Olympic medalist and genius...who also happens to be a dog. Using his most ingenious invention, the WABAC machine, Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy Sherman hurtle back in time to experience world-changing events first-hand and interact with some of the greatest characters of all time. But when Sherman breaks the rules of time travel, our two heroes find themselves in a race to repair history and save the future, while Mr. Peabody may face his biggest challenge yet - being a parent. Written by
It's hard to imagine somebody trying to pitch the story for Mr. Peabody & Sherman - "Let's make a movie about a genius dog who goes travelling in time and space with his adopted human son!" Well, actually, someone did make that pitch... way back in the 1950s. The two characters first appeared in Rocky And His Friends, an animated television show that will ring a bell with American audiences. But those of us who are less familiar with these characters needn't fret: this new incarnation by DreamWorks Animation is bright, funny and packed with great gags, a pleasingly smart treat for kids and adults alike.
Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is the brainiest dog in all the land, and a celebrated inventor, athlete and businessman to boot. From his lonely perch atop the world, he decides to adopt a baby boy. Everything goes well until the bespectacled Sherman (Max Charles) starts school. Forced to play nice with Penny (Ariel Winter), a classmate who ridicules him for having a dog as a father, Sherman shows her the WABAC: a time machine invented by Mr. Peabody to allow his son to bear witness to history in the making. Together, Sherman and Penny embark on a trip across time that could destroy the past, the present and the future.
Bouncing merrily from the French Revolution to ancient Greece by way of the Italian Renaissance, Mr. Peabody & Sherman messes mischievously with history - we're presented with a cake-obsessed Marie Antoinette (Lauri Fraser), a volatile Mona Lisa (Lake Bell) and a beef-headed Agamemnon (Patrick Warburton). Most of these references will likely be lost on younger viewers, but there's still plenty to keep them entertained. As the film races along in its madcap way, gags and puns (so bad they're brilliant) are tossed at the audience in such great amounts that it's rather amazing that most of them work as well as they do.
The film does suffer a little from its breakneck pace, as it rushes headlong towards a cataclysmic convergence of the past and the present. The story gets a little lost in the shuffle of history, with almost too much to absorb by the time nefarious social services worker Ms. Grunion (voiced with wicked relish by Allison Janney) turns up - a canine bigot to the core - and threatens to remove Sherman from Mr. Peabody's custody.
Nevertheless, director Rob Minkoff manages to pull the whole thing off, balancing the film's largely irreverent tone with a surprisingly heartfelt ending. He even crafts a father-son moment near the end of the film that's both shamelessly sweet and a cheeky nod to cinematic history. (Think Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick circa 1960.) It's all quite enough to suggest that there's a bright cinematic future ahead for this little boy and his dog/dad.
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