Mr. Peabody and Sherman: AND the PAWful Dog Puns

trailer-for-dreamworks-animations-mr-peabody-sherman-3I WAS QUITE surprised when this movie featured a Pixar-esque opening animated short. Except… what was different between this opening short and the Pixar ones is that it was completely devoid of any humour, charm or any aspect that made it memorable. Either the worst possible opening to a feature film or a genius tactic to make the actual movie seem not so bad.

No-one could blame you if you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Peabody and Sherman;the most exposure I had to Peabody before researching it for this movie was a brief cameo in The Simpsons Treehouse of Terror. The characters of Peabody and Sherman originated from their own animated shorts in The Rocky and Bullwinkle show called Peabody’s Improbable History airing between the late 50’s and 60’s. The characters didn’t see much screen time outside the states but relatively remained a cult figure.

After Sherman gets into a fight at school (a private elementary school which apparently has no teachers in the cafeteria) with the antagonist/love-interest/eventual protagonist Penny Peterson, Mr. Peabody is being threatened with having his child taken away because Sherman bit Penny. Since Mr.Peabody is… a dog, that leads child services to the conclusion that he is a bad parent, despite being a walking, talking, incredibly intelligent, political powerful and rich sentient being who has shown clear evidence of working tirelessly towards his son’s well-being (and breathe). But of course, his canine anatomy clearly means he is a savage animal and an unfit parent. I suppose some people are just prejudiced against talking dogs!

To make amends, Peabody invites Penny, her parents and the adoption/child services woman Mrs. Grunion over for dinner to hopefully resolve the situation. While at the house Penny continues to bully poor Sherman by calling him a dog (again, dog prejudice) and demands to know why he knows so much about history. Caving in, Sherman shows her the time machine that he and his father go on adventures with. But for the sake of the plot, Penny stays in ancient Egypt, which means that Peabody and Sherman need to grab Penny and go on wacky hijinks through time to get back.

If you’ve heard of the term ‘Mary-Sue’ then I don’t need to describe the character of Mr. Peabody any further. Not only is he a genius scientist but his talents extend to literally everything – LITERALLY everything – which ends up becoming the punchline for a few of the jokes. He does have one flaw; he can’t tell his son he loves him, a strange character flaw considering that he invests an incredible amount of time and effort into his well-being. Sherman himself keeps switching from being quite sweet, adorable and an innocent child to being just downright annoying. The female characters aren’t much better; I was a bit worried that the film was going to end up being particularly misogynistic as both of the two female characters who got any real screen time  were just the worst people in the world; both Penny’s and Mrs. Grunion’s entire character arc were centred on being truly awful people. Thankfully, Penny does go through some character development, but for no real reason other than that they went on adventures. It seems that at the end of second act she was just like ‘oh yeah, I’m nice now’.

The movie is full of terrible puns, both dog and history related. The joke is supposed to be that the puns are so bad they’re funny but ends up being they’re so bad they’re just bad. Saying that there are moments in the movie which genuinely made me laugh: however these are overwhelmingly outweighed by the jokes that fall flat. There’s also this frustratingly annoying running gag where Peabody makes a pun and Sherman goes ‘Hahahaha…. I don’t get it’, ahhhh! It wasn’t funny the first time, movie, it’s not going to be funny the next five times!

However it’s not all bad though, it becomes so much enjoyable when the very talented and my personal favorite voice actor Patrick Warbuton as Agamemnon appears – the injection of humour he adds is obvious right off the bat.

Patrick Warbuton isn’t the only familiar voice in this feature however; there are quite a couple of famous voices present, including Stephen Tobolowsky, Stephen Colbert and Mel Brooks, not forgetting that Peabody and Penny are played by Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell and Ariel Winter, as well as Max Charles as Sherman, who has had quite a few minor roles at this point and is a rare example of a talented child actor. I really hope he goes the Emma Watson route of child acting and grows up to be a respectable actor instead of, you know, the Macaulay Culkin way.

What’s strange about this movie is that they’ll get a lot of the historical information spot on, but just randomly add stuff for comedy value. For example, they visit ancient and meet King Tut and talk about his role, Egyptian society and culture, but then Peabody and Sherman have to bypass traps in a Sphinx, activate mechanisms that didn’t exist and have to ride a catapulted boat to escape.

I did relatively enjoy the movie however it is instantly forgettable. I would recommend waiting until it arrives on Netflix.