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Overall Rating
2.08

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 7.69%
Pretty Crappy92.31%
Sucks: 0%

2 reviews, 1 rating


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Mr. Peabody & Sherman
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by Peter Sobczynski

"This May Not Be Something That You'll Really Like"
2 stars

Like many of my generation, I was an avid viewer of the old "Rocky & Bullwinkle" show and was therefore also a big fan of the "Peabody's Improbable Adventures" feature that was an occasional component. For those too young to recall, Peabody--Mr. Peabody to you--was a brilliant and erudite dog who invented a time machine--the WABAC Machine to you--and, accompanied by his boy, Sherman, would travel through the ages in order to help key historical developments occur as planned and, perhaps more importantly, conclude each adventure with a pun of astoundingly groan-worthy proportions. I must say, however, that in all my years of watching and rewatching their antics, I never really gave much of a thought as to the emotional underpinnings of the Peabody-Sherman relationship. Did Peabody feel that he was being a good and nurturing father to his adopted son? Did Sherman face any problems as the result of having the world's smartest dog as his adopted father? Were there folks out there who thought that it was unwise for a dog to adopt a boy? Hell, under what possible circumstances was it possible for a dog, no matter how intelligent and literate, to adopt a human child in the first place?

The show never grappled with any of these questions either--partly because there was only so much information that could be crammed into a five-minute cartoon while still leaving room for the Punic War pun that was its raison d'Ítre and partly because the basic premise was so fragile--time travel, talking dogs and such--that to apply even the slightest bit of real world logic or emotion to it would be fatal. Although they may have inadvertently supplied viewers with a nugget or two of historical knowledge, these episodes were primarily intended to be little more than joke machines and at that, they succeeded wildly. Alas, five-minute joke machines do not exactly provide much of a foundation for a feature-length film, as Dreamworks presumably discovered approximately six minutes after announcing that they were bringing this dog-and-boy show to big screen, and as a result, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" has added those real-world elements to the mix, along with the kind of bodily function humor cherished by five-year-olds and few others, in an attempt to make it into a conventional animated film. Thanks to these innovations, a once-hilarious concept has been transformed into a formulaic drag that will impress virtually no one.

After an opening excursion to Versailles at the eve of the French Revolution that finds them befriending Marie Antoinette and running afoul of Robespierre, Peabody (Ty Burrell) and Sherman (Max Charles) return home to face an even-more daunting event--Sherman's first day of school. It doesn't go well as Sherman shows up classmate Penny (Ariel Winter) by insisting that the story of George Washington and the cherry tree was a myth (a nice touch, though the film nevertheless lets plenty of other apocrypha slip through when needed)--this instigates a fight that results in Sherman biting Penny on the arm and a social services crone (Allison Janney) arriving on the scene hell-bent on wresting the boy away from Peabody's care on the basis that a dog should never have been allowed to adopt a human in the first place. In the ghastliest moment of a film filled with them, we are then treated to a montage that not only explains how this happened in the most achingly sincere manner possible but adds to the schmaltziness by scoring it all to John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy"--a move that nevertheless fails to overcome the fact that the crone may actually have a point.

Hoping to smooth things over in the most contrived manner possible, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) over for dinner and while Peabody is impressing them with his culinary and chiropractic skills, Sherman, who is nursing a not-so-secret crush on Penny that suggests that he wants to be on the wrong end of the leash in every relationship, tries to impress his antagonist by showing her the top secret WABAC. Inevitably, Sherman violates Peabody's strictest rule and takes Penny out for a spin and just as inevitably, the adventure goes awry as Penny finds herself betrothed to the boy king Tutankhamen. After confessing all, Peabody and Sherman steal away to retrieve her, making a stop along the way to check in on Leonardo Da Vinci (Stanley Tucci) as he wrestles to convince his latest model to smile. When they finally return, it turns out that Sherman and Penny's meddling has caused a rip in the time-space continuum but before Peabody can set everything straight, the damn social worker shows up out of nowhere to channel her inner William Atherton by misreading the situation and causing everything to go higgledy-piggledy as history's most famous characters suddenly pop up in our time.

The good news with "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is that director Rob Minkoff, best known for making a little thing called "The Lion King," made the wise decision to do the entire thing in animation instead of doing a live-action/animation hybrid that would have presumably been too disconcerting for words, as "The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle" proved. (Hey, I actually kind of liked the film--not just for exposing the world to Piper Perabo--but even I think that it might have done better if it had just been fully animated.) The trouble is that this appears to have been the only smart and cohesive decision to be made on this production. The visual style tries to fuse together the funky low-fi look of the original cartoons with a slick contemporary sheen in a way that is more jarring than attractive and the added murkiness of 3-D doesn't help matters much either. (Ace cinematographer Guillermo Navarro is credited as a visual consultant, though I am at a loss as to what he might have done to earn his paycheck.)

The story is a lifeless concoction that seems inexplicably bored with its own concept and tries to paper it over with cheap sentiment, cheaper potty humor and a narrative that doesn't wind up as much as it simply gives up once it hits an acceptable feature length. There are a couple of funny jokes and puns scattered throughout but they only serve to accentuate how lame the rest of the material truly is, such as having Agamemnon himself saying "Don't Tase me, bro" for the sake of an easy laugh despite presumably having no working knowledge of what constitutes a "tase." As Peabody, Burrell never finds the right tone and makes the dog seem like a bit of a pill throughout while most of the other vocal talents fail to make much of an impression. The best voice contribution comes from none other than the legendary Mel Brooks and while I wouldn't dream of revealing who he plays, he gives his lines the kind of zip that viewers can respond to even if they don't recognize his dulcet tones.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is pretty much as lame as the trailers have made it look and coming as it does after "The Lego Movie"--a film that a seemingly unpromising animated film could, with proper handling, still result in an end product that was bright and colorful enough for kids and slyly amusing enough for older viewers--only serves to make it seem even weaker. (If only Dreamworks could somehow devise their own WABAC to go back in time and release their film first.) Frankly, the funniest thing about seeing it for me was that at the screening I attended, several elementary school classes were brought in as part of a field trip. Although most of the kids seemed to enjoy it to one degree or another--the grumbling and fidgeting was largely confined to the critics' row--I would have suggested to the teachers in charges that they would have been better off bringing the kids to see "300: Rise of the Empire" instead--not only is it slightly sturdier as a history lesson (to say nothing of anatomy), it is funnier to boot.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23985&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/06/14 19:45:55
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User Comments

4/02/15 Dr. Lao A decent adaptation, but the original didn't need fart jokes 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-Mar-2014 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2014

UK
  07-Feb-2014 (U)

Australia
  27-Mar-2014 (PG)
  DVD: 14-Oct-2014




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