Tuesday 4 February 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman review

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (U, 92 mins)
Director: Rob Minkoff
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Animated characters Mr. Peabody and Sherman were part of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s cartoon show in the early 60s.

Mr. Peabody is a super-intelligent dog and Sherman is his seven year old adopted son, and together they go on educational adventures through time using Mr. Peabody’s time machine, the WABAC.

On the one hand it’s surprising that it’s taken 50 years for these characters to come to the big screen. But clearly the makers of Family Guy took from the concept their inspiration for the many time travel adventures Brian and Stewie have, so it’s likely that the ongoing success of that made someone deem it worthwhile to dust down the original property and turn it into a feature length animated movie. They needn’t have bothered.

This is demonstrated in a pointless introductory sequence in which Mr. Peabody and Sherman (voiced by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell and Max Charles) encounter Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution for no discernible story reason whatsoever. It’s the first sign that this is a film less interested in its characters than in being a history lesson, and that’s surely the last thing kids want when they visit the cinema.

Once that’s out of the way the story continues with Sherman starting school, where a bullying problem with a classmate gets out of hand and the question is raised of how a dog can possibly be a fit parent. It’s a fairly flimsy framework on which to hang a film, and after some thoroughly unengaging stuff involving this, the main plot kicks off when Sherman is forced to spend time with the girl who is bullying him.

Showing her the WABAC to prove he’s not a liar, they end up in ancient Egypt, forcing Mr. Peabody to go back and rescue them. The story doesn’t so much flow organically from there as ping randomly from one point in time to another, pushing on to Renaissance Italy and ancient Greece for no reason other than these are historical times, events and characters that people are aware of.

If you're going to dabble in these sorts of shenanigans, at least have the imagination to do something clever or original with it. But this is a story that seems thrown together with the bare minimum of care and attention, that never even attempts to do something out of the ordinary with the time travel element. So haphazard is it, that it could simply be a selection of episodes thrown together, each with a different historical setting, and loosely tied up with a stuck-in-time bow.

The jokes are largely science puns, and whose benefit these are supposed to be for is a mystery. Kids won’t get them (“I don’t get it” being pretty much Sherman’s catchphrase) and adults will groan at how weak they are.

There’s nothing like actual wit and Peabody and Sherman themselves are hardly the most endearing of characters. You’ll get more entertainment with Family Guy and your children will get more education with Horrible Histories.

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