Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Rob Minkoff, 2014) Review

Dreamworks is a company that seems to zig-zag in film quality. For every How to Train Your Dragon, there's The Croods. For every Kung Fu Panda 2, there's a Shark Tale. After some rather lack-luster films, I was curious as to whether or not Mr. Peabody and Sherman could pull them up despite basing a film on an already existing product. Well, does it? Let's find out.

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a hyper-intelligent talking dog who has developed his own time machine known as the WABAC. Peabody and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles), travel through time and meet many historic figures such as Marie Antionette (Lauri Fraser) and Leonardo Da Vinci (Stanley Tucci). After Sherman gets in a fight in school with a girl named Penny (Ariel Winter), Peabody invites her family over to try and clear things up. In order to impress Penny, Sherman shows her the WABAC and Peabody, Sherman and Penny find themselves on a time travelling adventure.

I am very, very surprised by this film. While Dreamworks can make some amazing films such as How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2 (seriously), I was expecting this one to be a stupid and souless product of "what's in" and to start with, it looks like it's heading that way with an introduction that displays Peabody being the inventor of things such as Zumba and Auto-tune. However, we are thrust into a heartwarming, hilarious and surprisingly dark film (any film that opens with the French Revolution might do that). Mr. Peabody and Sherman has a big heart and the relationship between Peabody and Sherman comes through well with the great performances by Ty Burrell and Max Charles who nail the characters perfectly. 

I think the most impressive thing about Mr. Peabody and Sherman is that it is a smart film. A lot of though and research went into it. Kids will probably have no idea who Maximilien Robespierre is but they still throw him in. While they do take some creative liberties, a lot of the historic things featured are actually accurate (even mentioned Oedipus...were the censors asleep?) and could entice kids to look up these historic figures and actually learn something. Subtle education is fine by me. I will admit that not every joke lands and there are a few moments of pandering towards the kids in the audience because..I guess it's predominately a kids film but it's a kids film with a brain and a heart. 

Mr. Peabody and Sherman was a very nice surprise. Dreamworks still proves that they are a competent animation company regardless of the likes of Shark Tale and Shrek the Third. It's a likable film with a lot of heart and is surprisingly smart. It's not a timeless film (ironic, given the topic) as it does throw in a few pop culture references (I got vibes from Indiana Jones and 300) but, for now, it might be worth a watch if you can't see The LEGO Movie, currently the best animated film this year (excluding The Wind Rises because of it's...complicated release date).

It's great to see a kids film with a brain and the film delivers a heartwarming yet hilarious adventure.

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