Thursday, April 24, 2014

Movie with Abe: Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Mr. Peabody and Sherman
Directed by Rob Minkoff
Released March 7, 2014

The biggest challenge of any remake is to be able to fondly recall memories of the source material while creating a wholly new product that can be digested and comprehended all on its own. That’s especially true when the original is old enough that many of the viewers of the new project won’t have any frame of reference from which to know these characters. Fortunately, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” the early March release from DreamWorks Animation, is a thoroughly enjoyable and successful movie that functions perfectly well all on its own.

Based on characters of the same name from the 1960s series “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” this film follows the story of Mr. Peabody, a genius talking dog with glasses and a red bow tie, who adopts bright-eyed young Sherman, a boy who lives for the excitement of his father’s stories and, more importantly, their shared adventures using the WABAC, a time machine created by Mr. Peabody to better enrich his and Sherman’s lives through literally experiencing the past. Mr. Peabody’s friends from throughout time include Leonardo DaVinci and George Washington. Understandably, Sherman’s life is considerably different from that of many of his peers, and the first day of school represents a major challenge in terms of fitting in with the rest of the class.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” makes a likely deliberate and enormously positive choice: to follow just one isolated plotline and stick to it for the duration of the film. Sherman’s first day at school goes horribly, ending in him biting a bully, Penny, and leading to the threat of Mr. Peabody losing custody of Sherman. The fast-thinking Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents over to smooth over the situation, and of course a clueless Sherman decides that the only way to get Penny to like him is to show her the WABAC, resulting in a time-hopping journey with plenty of twists and turns along the way. This is just one chapter of their story, and had the box office for the film been better, this could easily have been the first of several such films.

As always in animation, voices are key. Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” is a wonderful choice to portray Mr. Peabody, giving him a fantastic air of pretentiousness and enthusiasm. Max Charles and Burrell’s TV daughter Ariel Winter imbue Sherman and Penny with appropriate zeal and childishness. From among the supporting cast, Allison Janney, Stephen Tobolowsky, Stephen Colbert, and Leslie Mann enhance an entertaining ensemble. This animated film achieves that crucial accomplishment of being just as worthwhile and appealing for adults as for kids, and it ends up being a fully engaging and very fun ride.


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