I’m a Generation Y kid, so going into this film I had little knowledge about the original cartoon segment “Peabody and Improbable History”. Hell, I barely have any knowledge of Rocky and Bullwinkle or The Jetsons. When watching this film, I had no bias about whether or not “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” was going to live up to the famous cartoon segment. Even with all bias put aside, I still found this film to be tiresome and annoying . The animation was alright but it didn’t help the weak plot and script that it was equipped with.
“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is about the relationship between the famous 1960s duo. Mr. Peabody (Ty Burell) is an extremely intelligent dog who has a talent in just about everything, and his son, Sherman (Max Charles) , is an extremely enthusiastic, red headed seven year old. Mr. Peabody invented a time machine called The WABAC which lets them travel to different eras. However, when Sherman bites his antagonistic classmate, Penny (Ariel Winter), child services is determined to take Sherman away.
The movie itself has a “History of the World” silliness to it like when Marie Antoinette tells her guards to let Mr. Peabody and Sherman have cake, but overall the movie just felt like a sappy Lifetime movie about the woes of parenting. Sure, they jumped around different time holes, but that just felt like a background story. It’s mainly focused on a dog trying to be a good father to a human child who happens to be an idiot. The father-son relationship that was established between them just felt odd and forced. It was hard to sympathize or relate to them because it was a dog trying to be a father figure to a human boy. In the previous cartoon, the relationship felt like a pet relationship rather than a paternal relationship, and that felt more natural.
With the type of humor that was present in the film, it was hard to figure out what audience they were aiming for. They obviously weren’t aiming for the baby boomers but it didn’t feel like they were aiming for children either. Yes, there were some famous Peabody puns thrown in there like, “If you don’t think you’re in Egypt, you’re in denial” but there were mainly jokes that the average eight year old probably wouldn’t get. What child would understand the jokes referencing the 1999 film “Runaway Bride” or the jokes revolving around the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky trial? From the sounds in the theaters, only their parents were chuckling.
Overall, this film was cute but I wished it focused more on the history – regardless if it was silly or not- rather than the father son aspect. I suppose that’s why they shortened the name to “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” instead of including “Improbable History” in the title. Aside from the sentimentality, this film just felt like it went nowhere. Even using the social worker as a possible villain didn’t work because she was only shown in two scenes. So if you’re just looking for a lot of sap and emotion with no actual plot, this film might be the right one for you.