Friday, April 11, 2014

'Mr. Peabody' REVIEW

'Peabody's Improbable History' was a series of animated shorts that were part of the 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' show (in reruns when I was a kid) where a hyper-intelligent bespecaled canine (with a bow tie) named Mr. Peabody would introduce "my boy Sherman" before getting into the WABAC ("way back") machine and teaching kids about history, visiting some historical period, meeting historical figures and getting involved with some historical event.

Like the original series, the 'Mr. Peabody' movie combines being educational with being fun and adventurous.  Here, we get a backstory for Mr. Peabody.  He was different than the other dogs.  He didn't like to play fetch.  He was too smart to see the point of it.  "You're just going to throw it again."  He would rather read and learn.  The beginning of this movie tells us in a very humorous way who Mr. Peabody is and what he accomplished (Nobel prize, inventions etc.) before finding a baby named Sherman in a basket and adopting him because he wanted more with his life.  The cartoon shorts never told us that Sherman was the dog's adopted son (I don't think), which is a new spin we get from the movie that creates some very touching drama, as the world's most briliant dog has to learn how to tell his boy that he loves him.

The plot thickens when Sherman gets into a fight with a girl at school who was bullying him and bites her.  This puts Mr. Peabody on the radar of a child services worker who uses the incident to try to take Sherman away, claiming that a dog should not be raising a boy.  It was a very clever introduction to what a devoted father this canine Dr. Who is and a set-up for some touching and funny moments.  Mr. Peabody invites the girl's parents over for dinner, hoping to smooth things over with them.  Sherman's attempts to make friends with the girl involve him trying to impress her by showing her the WABAC time machine, despite Mr. Peabody's instructions not to touch.  That sets the stage for a series of funny adventures and some wacky time travel rules that are well-played out in the story.  Leonardo DaVinci, King Tut and Albert Einstein play supporting roles and Putty from 'Seinfeld' does the voice of one of the soldiers inside the Trojan horse.  There are quite a few jokes that will go over the kids' heads and that the adults will enjoy (especially if you know history), but you're probably better off if you don't know anything about Oedipus.  You will wonder why they put a joke about Oedpius (and how having dinner at his house was awkward) in a children's movie when he was a mythical figure anyway.  And you may feel icky.  If you let that joke go over your head, 'Mr. Peabody' is a clever, funny, witty, well-written fast-paced adventure that young and old (who are unfamiliar with Oedipus) can enjoy together.

I give 'Mr. Peabody' 3.5 bow ties out of 5.

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