written by Alexandra Wade
A reboot of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle characters, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a sweet, simple story, despite hinging on time travel. Rushed but enjoyable, this film can open the door to discussions about history, families, and being a good friend.
Now available to rent or buy, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” focuses on a dog genius and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles). Mr. Peabody (an excellent Ty Burrell) has been using a time machine he built, the WABAC, to educate and bond with Sherman since he adopted him as a baby, and Sherman’s first-hand knowledge of historical events gets him in trouble when he corrects another student. The girl, Penny (Ariel Winter), resorts to bullying Sherman, and the two fight. This leads to Peabody’s parenting skills being questioned.
In an attempt to prove himself and smooth things over, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann) over before his evaluation by the school guidance counselor, Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney). Penny’s parents and Peabody hit it off, but Sherman still cannot win Penny over. Penny convinces him to power up the WABAC, setting off a chain of events that results in a time rift.
Peabody and Sherman’s relationship is a strong point throughout. The duo value and enjoy their time together, and even when disagreeing, they clearly love each other. The historical sequences are a high point as far as humor goes, but do not offer much in the way of accuracy. The fast pace makes it difficult to get facts in around the humor. The movie offers an opportunity to discuss the true stories behind the people shown (Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Antoinette, and King Tut, to name a few), as well as revising history and why it happens.
Penny’s character creates a chance to talk about another important issue: bullying. Though she eventually reforms, Penny is a spoiled, bratty bully for most of the film. In a movie dominated by time travel and a talking dog, Penny’s behavior and Sherman’s reactions bring something real and relatable to the discussion. Other topics that could be discussed are the movie’s representations of “nerdiness” (overwhelmingly pro), women and girls (disappointingly flat), and diverse families (see dog adopting a boy).
The humor is a good mix of jokes for parents and jokes for kids. Some humor is obviously targeted toward parents only, with physical comedy and mild bathroom humor mixed in for kids. Peabody’s signature puns run rampant. There are also some scary or dangerous situations, but the rushed nature of the film is actually a benefit here. Frightening sequences fly by as fast as the rest of the film, and scary images are mostly of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.
“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is an enjoyable mixed-bag that will be appreciated by the entire family and offers opportunities to talk about history, families, and friendships. For more detailed reviews, visit: