Mr Peabody & Sherman
A weak, overstretched revival of the super-intelligent pooch and his human son
Dreamworks Animation’s latest attempt to recapture Shrek’s hit combination of pop culture references and unforgettable characters fails due to an overabundance of the former and none of the latter. The titular pair are a dog and a boy, with the twist being that the dog, Mr Peabody, is the cleverest being in the universe, and the boy, Sherman, is his adopted son. Together they travel to various points in history in Mr Peabody’s time machine, meeting everyone from Ghandi to George Washington.
Based on a recurring segment from the 60s-era animated series Rocky and Bullwinkle, it’s a set-up that works perfectly in five-minute bursts; that’s just enough time to offer an anachronistic parody of a famous historical figure while surreptitiously conveying some educational facts about them at the same time. In its best moments this film achieves that balance, the highlight being Sherman’s recruitment by Agamemnon and his adrenaline junkie army at the siege of Troy.
But these characters were never meant to bear the weight of a full-length film. The bizarre nature of Peabody and Sherman’s adoptive relationship is a surreal joke, but this film’s script treats it seriously in order to create some overarching drama. So Sherman needs to learn to deal with being the son of a dog (!) while Peabody must learn to be a less overbearing parent (!!). Perhaps sensing the weakness of this conceit, writer Craig Wright packs the script with poop gags for the kids and in-jokes for the grown-ups, but despite the odd chuckle it adds up to a poor excuse for a movie. It rather puts things into perspective to note that 20 years ago this film’s director Rob Minkoff raised the bar for animated storytelling as co-director of The Lion King. How times have changed.