Mr Peabody & Sherman Review

Mr Peabody & Sherman

A wise man once said that all dogs can talk, but only to those who know how to listen.

But what if the pooch in question is a smug, know-it-all, preppy type with a bow-tie and a penchant for chatting about how marvellous he is?

Not to mention being an award winning astrophysics pioneer and historian, skilled in the art of resolving international conflicts as well as accumulating hoards of trophies for his sporting prowess.

Stupid talking dog.

As luck would have it for this intro of mine, an eloquent canine is the hero of the latest animated feature from the DreamWorks studio.

Released just in time to rescue some jaded half-term parents from a week of quality time with their dis-interested sprogs, Mr Peabody & Sherman is an update of Peabody’s Improbable History; a regular short, broadcast within the Bullwinkle & Rocky cartoon show from days of yore.

The basic premise of this being a talking dog engaging and inspiring his adopted boy by transporting him on the WABAC, a time machine, to key periods in world history.

In the 21st Century, Peabody lives in a swanky New York apartment with his adopted son who’s about to begin prep school, while the WABAC machine that inspires all their historical adventures is hidden away from prying eyes in a secret corner of their home.

Sherman’s precocious manner leads to difficulty settling into orthodox education, surprising his teachers by debunking myths about George Washington whilst arousing suspicion and annoying his classmates for having a dog for his dad.

Following a fight with a classmate and a parent consultation with an over-enthusiastic social services employee Sherman gives the game away about the WABAC to his schoolyard nemesis, Penny.

Like all feisty girls in animated cartoons Penny demands that Sherman let her travel in the time machine.

Like all besotted boys, Sherman grudgingly obliges.

Penny is next seen preparing for her wedding to King Tut, blissfully unaware of the idiosyncrasies of Ancient Egyptian spousal funeral practice.

Can our heroes rescue Penny, re-re-write history and repair the damage caused to the space time continuum whilst keeping the New York City social services and dog catchers at bay?

Mr Peabody & Sherman

To this cynical, embittered and soon to be past it mind, Mr Peabody & Sherman’s premise is a little odd and there are some fairly chunky wormholes in its plot.

Though I suspect this wouldn’t matter a jot to its target audience.

The treatment of Mr Peabody at the hands of the almost bigoted social worker is too nasty and without any real motivation.

It’s almost as if the filmmakers are trying, clumsily, to pitch the character alongside non-tolerant, Tea Party Movement types, railing against unorthodox family values.

Then again I might be reading too much into this.

There are some neat set-pieces; a Trojan horse within the Trojan horse, an exasperated Leonardo Da Vinci trying to coax a smile from his sulky muse and an excellent Spartacus gag for the grown-ups, all desperately trying to recall their sketchy O level knowledge of the classics.

The story moves at a terrific pace, whilst the historical elements are light hearted and warmly re-created so as to appear like an action sequence from any other film of the genre.

No doubt our current Education Secretary would sneer his disapproval at such a thing, and with this in mind I’d recommend the film’s UK distributor try and extract some sort of soundbite from the man himself, the publicity generated would be significant.

Mr Peabody & Sherman is a perfectly decent and exciting film that’ll prove popular to children and parents alike and, to paraphrase my daughter, I would recommend this film to anybody who likes history and dogs.

Even the annoying genius ones.

Frank Gardiner

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2014