Box Office Democracy: “Mr. Peabody & Sherman”
I was a big fan of [[[The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show]]] as a child and while I enjoyed almost all of the segments “Peabody’s Improbable History” was a particular favorite. I don’t know what it is but time travel and know-it-alls have always appealed to me. It was because of this fandom and the horrific earlier attempts to make films out of the Jay Ward cartoons that made me approach Mr. Peabody & Sherman with particular trepidation. I’m happy to report that these fears were unfounded and that Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a generally delightful movie.
After perhaps a bit too much exposition (the original cartoon never seemed to need much more than talking dog, pet boy, time machine) Mr. Peabody & Sherman gets right into a trip to Revolutionary France that plays like a more action-packed version of an old-school Peabody short. It even closes with a pun. From there the movie packs on a rather stunning amount of plot when all I really wanted was more of the classic formula.
This is the peril of the modern reboot movie; they often lose the fun in favor of a more modern approach to storytelling. I don’t care about Sherman being bullied for having a father that’s a dog, I don’t care about irrationally angry school counselors that want to involve Child Protective Services, I only care about Mr. Peabody hosting a dinner party because the characters attending are voiced by Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann, and I don’t really need Mr. Peabody to learn a lesson about being a good father. I just want time travel and jokes and for a good percentage of those jokes to be terrible puns. I don’t think that’s too much to ask and the movie delivers on this frequently but I left the theater wanting more.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is better than it is bad and I enthusiastically await a sequel (it seems on pace for those kind of numbers assuming the rights aren’t a mess) but there are so many tiny flaws holding this one back from the excellence that was in its grasp. I’ve seen enough terrible kids movies the last two years that very good is more than enough for me but if I were Rob Minkoff and I had directed this and The Lion King I would feel like this one could have been a bigger deal.