Mr. Peabody and Sherman is a movie.
Let that sink in. Filler animation from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show is now a would-be blockbuster. To the tune of DreamWorks spending 145 million dollars to make this. That can’t bode well for the course of human civilization, but I’ll be darned if the thing isn’t actually okay.
They don’t try to explain the brilliant dog bit, or why society accepts him. That’s certainly for the best. He’s just Mr. Peabody with his adopted human son Sherman. And they have a time machine. If you can deal with that, you’re in.
There’s also Penny, a classmate of Sherman presumably added to attract the other half of the child population, who you really can’t neglect if you’re going to spend 145 million on a movie like this. Her character, however, is tonally off. She’s a bully in the beginning, then a helpless damsel needing to be rescued, then a sort of friend. It’s neither a stable arc nor all that flattering to the girl audience.
Fortunately, Mr. Peabody and Sherman work. The dog is brilliant and urbane, the boy is a goofy boy, and they have a certain inexplicable chemistry. A sequence of misadventures resulting from the aforementioned bullying lead Peabody, Sherman and Penny to ancient Egypt in the time of Tut, Renaissance Italy with Leonardo da Vinci, and Troy as that famous horse is being pulled into town. The past is rendered in semi-vivid colors, while Peabody still puns badly as in the days of yore (“Perhaps I’m an old Giza”). There are a number of pop culture references as well. Some work. Some, like a runaway bride riff, just seem weird in a kid’s movie.
The middle, when the time travelling occurs, is the best part of this film. It picks up speed with the initial rescue of Penny, actually clicks with Leonardo, and slides more or less into groove with the Greeks at Troy. The beginning is a bit slow, with the Penny parts crossing the line into mean-spirited territory. The end is a full on rip in the space-time continuum that’s mildly exhausting to watch. Still, boy does discover he loves his dog and vice-versa, so the final sequence isn’t a total waste of time. Besides, who can hate a movie that has a dog being pardoned simultaneously by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton ( “I’ve done worse”).
The animation is basic competance by the standards of today, nothing special. While your immediate point of focus is acceptably rendered, the backdrops tend to be flat. There's not a whole lot going on in the background.
I'm not sure who they made this for. The LEGO Movie it’s not, and it may be a symptom of wretched excess, but it does have its moments. My six-year-old laughed a lot. So you and your kids can safely enjoy a completely forgettable part of your own childhood.