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Article by Teddy Durgin

Mr. Peabody & Sherman: This Dogfather Has My Every Loyalty

There are many things to like about "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," the new animated time-travel comedy based on the characters from the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments of the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show." One, it doesn't dumb itself down. In fact, I think some parents and grown-ups will find the film too "heady" for very young kids because the various historical periods and people the two title characters come in contact with throughout are not your usual George Washington/Abraham Lincoln types. Oh, George and Honest Abe make cameos. But more prominent to the plot are folks like Leonardo Da Vinci, Marie Antoinette and Agamemnon. Two, it freely acknowledges that a lot of plot points are going to go over kids' heads. Several times during the course of the flick, the main child character, Sherman (voice of Max Charles), says, "I don't get it" whenever his adoptive dad makes a pun or a joke that only Frasier Crane might get. The kids in the audience are going to be saying the same thing even as Mom and Dad are chuckling at the cleverness of it all. And, three, the film's makers know how to "set the table." Everything that happens in its first two acts pays off beautifully in a goofy and inspired third act that climaxes with the present day clashing with the past eras of the Renaissance, the French Revolution, the Trojan War and so forth. Ty Burrell of "Modern Family" voices Mr. Peabody, a genius dog who has been everything from a scientist and inventor to an athlete and an advisor to U.S. Presidents in his life. More recently, he has taken on his most challenging role - a father to little Sherman, an abandoned human boy he has adopted. Intent on sharing great adventures with his son, Peabody invents a time machine he calls "The Way Back." Together, he and Sherman take regular trips to the past and come in contact with everyone from Albert Einstein to Jackie Robinson. When Sherman reaches elementary school age, he can't help but show off all of the historical tidbits he's learned from his various time trips. That brings him into conflict with class brainiac Penny (voice of Ariel Winter). Sherman starts to crush on the little girl and lets it slip that he has access to a time machine. The two, of course, then get into all sorts of trouble in ancient Egypt and other time periods. At its heart, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is indeed a father-son story, and a pretty good one. Still, you kind of have to get over the unlikelihood of a walking, talking, thinking dog raising a human - something that no other man, woman or child in the film seems to question - to connect with it. But once you engage your imagination on this one, the story falls into place. Thankfully, director Rob Minkoff of "The Lion King" and "Stuart Little" fame keeps the messages to a minimum and just has fun. Sure, you could make a case that Peabody standing up for his parental rights as a dog-father is a thinly veiled testament to the importance and increasing prominence of non-traditional families in our real world. But that would be reaching a bit. The biggest lesson I got? Hmmmm, let's see. Well, if you have a daughter, don't let her marry royalty from ancient Egypt. She may be threatened with ritualistic disembowelment as a direct result. Yeah, it's that kind of a nutty flick.

 

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