Mr. Peabody & Sherman satisfies everyone's need for heartwarming animated fare.
Among the early entries into American animated television, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show represented the closest thing to high-brow entertainment. A trio of weekly animated shorts, the show began airing in the late 1950's, and followed the adventures of an oddly-paired squirrel and moose. Nestled somewhere between that and Boris and Natasha was the time-travel historical skit Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which arrives this week into theaters. The result is a welcomed relief from the explosion-filled manliness of late Winter, and might even tug at your heartstrings.
The smartest person in the world is no human, but the dog Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell), a canine of industry, adviser to heads of state, accomplished musician and a top chef. His adopted son Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) forms a duo that travels through time to learn about history as it actually happened. After a close call during The French Revolution, the WABAC machine (pronounced Way-Back) returns them home, just in time for Sherman's first day of school. But the two get into trouble with the plotting student Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter) and must correct the timeline before a CPS agent (voiced by Allison Janney) can separate dog from boy.
The backbone of Writer Craig Wright's script is not on the fun time travel aspect, but on the relationship between a father who learns to love and a son who learns to want such attention. Its instant charm is contagious, from the pair's touching origin stories to the quirky nature of the animation by DreamWorks Animation and Director Rob Minkoff. To land a property like Mr. Peabody & Sherman was a genius play for the studio, and Minkoff's resume brings with it an air of respectability that's apparent from the moment the theater lights dim. His strength also lies in the voice casting: Burrell immediately inhabits the stylish Mr. Peabody, while Charles shines as the impressionable Sherman. The addition of stars Patrick Warburton, Stephen Colbert, and Mel Brooks round out a talented cast that plays well off each other, while Composer Danny Elfman's terrific score is epic and friendly in the right places. The ending feels a little rushed and way over the heads for the little ones, but it's so quirky that adults will find themselves giggling so much that they're likely to forget this small issue.
Peabody won't have much competition in the family movie slot, which features the played-out The LEGO Movie and Frozen. Critics will want to compare it to those properties, which is probably unfair - for a franchise based on 5-minute skits from 50 years ago, it's remarkably deep and even a little heartwarming. If you don't leave the theater with a greater love for your children or a tear in your eye, then there might be something very wrong with you. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor and has a runtime of 92 minutes.
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