Movie review

'Mr. Peabody & Sherman' take viewers on a journey way back


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The makers of "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" know how to hit baby boomers where they live -- and love.

They set a sweet montage showing how Mr. Peabody, a brainy, bespectacled, bowtie-wearing dog, came to find, adopt and love his human boy Sherman to the John Lennon song "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)."

It's one of the highlights of the animated movie inspired by the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments that were part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon TV series in the late 1950s and early '60s. Ninety-one shorts, each about 41/2 minutes, were produced.

'Mr Peabody & Sherman'

Starring: Voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter.

Rating: PG for some mild action and brief rude humor.


Now, Mr. Peabody and Sherman step out from supporting roles to star in this feature that retains the WABAC (as in Wayback) machine allowing the pair to time travel and meet George Washington or Gandhi or Marie Antoinette. When 7-year-old Sherman demonstrates some of the firsthand knowledge he has picked up along the way, he incurs the wrath of competitive classmate Penny Peterson.

Her bullying brings out the beast in the boy, lands Mr. Peabody in the principal's office and attracts the unwanted attention of the zaftig, heartless Miss Grunion from the Bureau of Child Safety and Protection.

She raises the possibility of taking Sherman away from Mr. Peabody and that sets the stage for some unplanned time travel along with threats to the time-space continuum and father-son bond.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman,"which is being released in 2-D and 3-D (you may want to spring for the extra surcharge on this one), features the voices of "Modern Family" dad Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody and young Max Charles from ABC's "The Neighbors" as Sherman.

Ariel Winter, who plays Mr. Burrell's younger daughter, Alex, on the sitcom, speaks for Penny, and Allison Janney is Miss Grunion. Listen closely and you'll also hear Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Stanley Tucci and Mel Brooks, among others.

The movie, directed by Ron Minkoff ("The Lion King," "Stuart Little") and written by Craig Wright, successfully runs on twin tracks with material for adults and children just as the TV segments did.

Grown-ups will get Mr. Peabody's groaner puns and appreciate the historical figures and scenarios, while kids will appreciate the 3-D animation that pops images out of the screen more than usual and warm to the story of a dog and his adopted boy.

Noteworthy is the matter-of-fact inclusion of a boy in a wheelchair at Sherman's school lunch table. True, he's being bossed around by Penny but she hasn't undergone a time-traveling transformation -- yet.

"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" doesn't have the musical soundtrack of "Frozen" or visual inventiveness of "The Lego Movie" but it has much to recommend it, particularly in its climactic final scenes with action, adventure, humor, presidential cameos, mild scares and a dear message about how it doesn't matter if you're adopted or if your dad is a Nobel Prize-winning pooch.

It's how you treat and care for one another that count, whether Marie Antoinette is eating cake in 1789 or Mr. Peabody is mixing up "Einstein on the Beach" cocktails (for adults) in present-day New York.

 


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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