A fun enough blast through history that sweeps through place to place or more accurately, time to time. There may not be too much in the way for adult entertainment but the animation is fresh and funky to keep children in wide eyed delight and if overlooking the sometime wibbly wobbly timey wimey plot there’s a nice film with heart and drive here to keep all parties at a happy medium.
Rob Minkoff, the guy who co-directed one of my favourite ever Disney films…scratch that, films in general (The Lion King) is on full directors duty here telling the story of Peabody and Sherman who come from a TV sketch background where they featured as part-time folk in ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. Here for their big screen treatment we see the intelligence and trying fatherly role of Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) in all his doggy glory as he attempts to raise his adopted son Sherman (Max Charles) in the right manner. On his first day of school however he ends up locking horns with the preppy bully Penny (Ariel Winters) and Peabody could lose Sherman if the overbearing Trunchbull-esque family service agent has her way in regards to the incident. Through time and space can the dog and boy grow closer, save the day and stay together?
Of course, with no spoiler warning the answer to the above on all three counts is yes. It’s a children’s film, of course everything works out, though there are some bumpy patches along the way that work nicely in giving this film an element of welcome sweetness and emotional weight. The adoptive father-son relationship is a simple enough tool to get going but they utilise it well and as their journey back and forth goes on you feel some mild attachment to their cause and you will Peabody to become a better, or at least a closer father to Sherman. The declaration of love and such is an obvious script line from the time Sherman says it and Peabody doesn’t, that you just know it’ll crop up by the end with a twist around but it doesn’t make the sentiment any weaker. The actual time story is good and meaty for a kids flick but in that there’s the issue of how much would fly over their heads. It is in fact quite a convoluted plot of never crossing paths with yourself, saving history, wormholes and anti-gravity spins. They do get it right though and the careering crashing sequence of the final act makes for visual glory that would keep the little ones distracted from the sciency angle anyhow.
There’s a few gripes that got me as the film grew in running time, firstly the character of Penny who never really gets on your good side. One minute she’s like one of the Plastics in ‘Mean Girls’ and then she’s nice and reaching out to be friends with Sherman. I just didn’t got on with her arc at all, not likable or interesting enough really. The third chair in the WABAC also infuriates as if Mr. Peabody didn’t want anyone else knowing about it why the heck did he install another seat in the machine?! The earlier running joke of Sherman laughing at his dad’s puns and then not getting it was irritating, a bad running joke anyway but why would he laugh if he didn’t know it was a joke/pun in the first place? The timey stuff loses the saving of the day grandeur when just before the credits you see modern life being handled in the past which would just set off all sorts of major problems in the present day and now also everyone knows about the WABAC, in no terms of story gripes just in fear of how much Peabody is going to get hounded for the fact he’s crafted an actual way to travel through time!!
The voice cast are cool though and Ty Burrell of ‘Modern Family’ fame gets the warmth and wit of Peabody down to a T. You totally buy into his smarts and the voice he has works for that character even if it’s sometimes hard to look past Phil Dunphy. Ariel Winters plays the bratty Penny with the girly ringing in her speech needed to sell the earlier bully stage of her character before using the same girly mannerisms to try and bring more kindness into her role. Max Charles is actually really energetic and engaging as the voice of Sherman and gives lift to the more human side of events. Patrick Warburton boosts the film with his booming voice as per usual and really lifts the film when his Agamemnon comes into play. Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann are fun minor additions but they are just that, minor.
This is a zippy film with whizz and bang in loud and colourful heaps and it wins for the Oedipus joke alone. There are plenty of sight gags in history to try and keep the adults on side as kids may not understand them. It’s a party for children more so but it’s definitely entertaining, sweet and rip-roaring in it’s design.