Having accomplished everything an educated dog could achieve, Mr. Peabody chose to adopt a little boy he discovered in an alley. With Sherman old enough to attend school, Peabody struggles to cope with being separated from his boy. While going through his first class, Sherman shows up one of the popular girls, which causes a confrontation at lunch. Peabody is called in to discuss the incident and meets Ms. Grunion, who wants to take his parental rights away. Peabody focuses on setting up a dinner meeting with Penny Peterson’s parents and leaves Sherman to repair his relationship with Penny. Caught up in the moment, Sherman reveals Peabody’s invention, the WABAC, and travels back in time to ancient Egypt. Losing Penny in the past, Sherman returns to the present to get Peabody’s help to save her.
Starring: Ty Burrell (Mr. Peabody), Max Charles (Sherman), Ariel Winter (Penny Peterson), Allison Janney (Ms. Grunion), Stephen Colbert (Mr. Peterson), Leslie Mann (Mrs. Peterson), Lauri Fraser (Marie Antoinette), Zach Callison (King Tut), Steve Valentine (Ay), Stanley Tucci (Leonardo da Vinci), Lake Bell (Mona Lisa), Patrick Warburton (Agamemnon), Tom McGrath (Odysseus), Mel Brooks (Albert Einstein), Guillaume Aretos (Robespierre), Stephen Tobolowsky (Principal Purdy), Dennis Haysbert (Judge), Jess Harnell (Lincoln, Washington, Clinton, Isaac Newton), Leila Birch (WABAC)
The voice acting in this film felt appropriate for the exaggerated presentation of the characters. There was a high level of levity used to represent famous historical figures and periods. At the same time, the writing left a little to be desired with how they worked together. Nevertheless, Ty Burrell was the right casting to pull off the semi-hip, intelligent lead opposite of Max’s naive Sherman. Ariel projected the right amount of arrogance, while Janney was the right type of overbearing.
Though the original cartoon was part of the early 1950s hit Rocky & Bullwinkle show, Rob Minkoff updated the classic with a new century twist and script. The film boasted a combination of a more modern dialogue and with a number of references to more recent events. The taser scene included Agamemnon saying, “Don’t taze me, bro,” which was a direct reference to the incident at a college library. During a scene near the end, Bill Clinton pops in with a reference to his personal misstep during his presidency. In addition, the dialogue goes for some more subtly presented childish humor, including a joke about tasting the sewer water and confusion when interpreting Marie Antoinette’s transition between English and French. While there are moments of decent dialogue, there are a number of very over-the-top puns and strained attempts at humor that it detracts from the overall story.
Regarding the story, Minkoff took some real liberties with the original relationship between the boy and dog. In the original cartoon, the two protagonists were friends, not father and son. For the film, Peabody’s discovery of the abandoned boy was used to address a number of social issues. The first was adoption. While the politics of boys and dogs owning/adopting each other is included, the film highlighted a significant positive side of the process through the love shared between the two of them. Their relationship also became strained over the idea of being discriminated against. Sherman was humiliated and called a dog by Penny, which later became a sense of tension with Peabody when the significance of the insult was kept out of discussion. Not until their feud exploded during their travels through time did they deal with the hurtful nature which the reference was used.
The film was entertaining to a certain extent, but there were also a number of challenges to its presentation. There was a lack of development in Penny’s character, leaving her seeming like an overconfident brat whose behavior seemed completely unjustified. Ms. Grunion’s hatred of Peabody was explained but felt a little too over the top. Historical characters overly utilized modern colloquialisms when only da Vinci had a relationship with Peabody. The forced humor and historical inconsistencies (even in fiction) hurt its overall enjoyment.
Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5