You can always rely on Dreamworks to make fun, family-orientated films, filled with decent animation, colourful characters, and sweet moral messages. Sometimes, like in the case of How to Train Your Dragon, the films become much more than that. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Peabody and Sherman does not fit into this outstanding category, but will still serve as an easy way to kill a few hours of your time.
Based on the characters from the 60s, the film stars Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell), a talking dog who is the smartest being in existence, and his adopted son, Sherman (Max Charles). Wanting to give Sherman a good education, Mr. Peabody builds a time machine called the WABAC, which they use to travel to the past and witness historical events first-hand. When Sherman starts school and gets into a fight with Penny (Ariel Winter), Mr. Peabody is told he could lose custody of his son. So he invites Penny and her parents over for dinner to make amends, and ends up going on a time-travel adventure with the kids. They end up in Ancient Egypt, Troy, and even Italy. Thankfully, every one they meet speaks perfect English. Lucky, or else I dread to think how anything would have got resolved.
It is clear that this film is aimed at educating children while it entertains them. It mainly focuses on historical events that we are all familiar with: the French Revolution, the Trojan War, King Tut’s reign, and painting the Mona Lisa. These eras each come with the stereotypical figures that are usually seen in children’s films, complete with overly strong accents. With all of time to choose from, it’s disappointing that the writers only took the plot to overused places and had the characters do the same, unoriginal things. How many times have we seen the origin story of Mona Lisa’s smile now? There was, however, a very pretty scene in which Sherman and Penny fly over Italy. The animation here is stunning, something which Dreamworks have excelled at in other films.
In true Dreamworks fashion, there were plenty of adult jokes to keep parents entertained. In particular, a Greek soldier’s remark of how awkward Oedipus’ house is during the holidays was memorable. Sadly, the other jokes were essentially toilet humour. I’m sure this will delight the children, but not us sophisticated students who enjoy watching animated films.
The villain of this film, a school counselor called Mrs. Grunion (Allison Janney), is a very frustrating character. She serves no purpose in this film other than being the unreasonable antagonist who never listens and seems to be able to tell people what to do with no explanation of why they should. I did not find her to be a well thought out character. It seems like she was added purely to give the film a dramatic climax to work towards, something I don’t think was really needed.
I’m not saying that this film is bad. It’s not one of Dreamwork’s best films, but it isn’t awful (unlike the terrible Bee movie). At the centre of the plot is a truly heartwarming, father-son bond, which redeems the otherwise scattered plot line. As long as you remember that this is a children’s film, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, you should enjoy it.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014), directed by Rob Minkoff, is released in the UK by 20th Century Fox, Certificate U.