Mr. Peabody and Sherman is the 2014 revival of the similarly-named cartoon series from the 1950s that was a part of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. When resurrecting a property from decades past and modernizing it, the results can often get messy. Thankfully, Mr. Peabody and Sherman does a good job at bringing these characters up to date. It’s also a pretty entertaining movie in its own right, if maybe not a groundbreaking one.
Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is the world’s smartest dog. In fact, he’d be a super genius even by human standards. The only thing Mr. Peabody loves as much as his never-ending pursuit of knowledge is his adopted human son Sherman (Max Charles). In order to give his son a heads start on his education, Mr. Peabody invented a time machine called the WABAC (pronounced “Way back”) so that he and Sherman can experience historical events firsthand.
After Sherman gets into a fight at school with a girl named Penny (Ariel Winter), child services come to question if Mr. Peabody, a dog, is a fit parent for Sherman. To ease the situation, Mr. Peabody invites Penny, her family, and the child service agent over for dinner and win them over. Sherman, who has developed a crush on Penny, tries to impress her with a trip through the WABAC. Being a couple of kids, they inadvertently cause a ruckus throughout history, and they need Mr. Peabody’s help to set things right, which leads the trio on an adventure through ancient Egypt, Renaissance Florence and even the Trojan War.
It’s actually a bit surprising how much fun the movie ends up being. The animation is appropriately cartoonish and silly (if maybe not noteworthy), and the movie boasts a good deal of comedy going for it (including a few surprising adult jokes). The plot does hit a few rough moments towards the end, when the time traveling concept becomes a bit convoluted, but it still provides good fun throughout.
Another bonus is that not only does Mr. Peabody and Sherman bring the titular characters up to date, it probably makes them more likable than they were before. In the original, admittedly-dated cartoon, Peabody treated Sherman more like a pet or – at best – a lab assistant. But the movie does a decent job and giving the duo a father/son relationship, though Peabody humorously has trouble showing affection (preferring to say “I have a deep admiration for you” in place of “I love you” to his son).
Of course, this brings up one of the movie’s problems. It seems every time the characters are given an emotional moment, it ends abruptly in order to zip to the next energetic action scene. It might have worked to the movie’s benefit to give fewer, but lengthier, emotional moments instead of sprinkling them through the film, only to write them off so quickly.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman may not be an animated classic by any stretch, but it is refreshing to see a modernization of a retro cartoon that actually works. The end result is a hyperactive ride that – aside from some dips in the plot and emotion – delivers a fun and humorous animated romp.