VOD film review: Mr. Peabody and Sherman
Dog based puns9
The climax's effectiveness5
Attempts to teach its audience7
Ian Loring | On 07, Oct 2014
Director: Rob Minkoff
Cast: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Patrick Warburton, Ariel Winter
Watch Mr. Peabody and Sherman online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The past few years have been rather turbulent in the realm of animated films. With the likes of Blue Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Animation and Laika occasionally scoring with audiences, the big hitters Pixar and DreamWorks have been locking horns vying to become the titans of the form. Pixar had a reputation for doing no wrong but over recent years, this has been tarnished somewhat, with serviceable entries like Monsters University and Brave along with an outright stinker in Cars 2. In 2014, they haven’t even released anything.
DreamWorks, however, continue to release films like an efficient factory, films which generally make money and maybe, just maybe, become hits with critics too. The Croods and the How To Train Your Dragon series have been recent bright spots but this year also saw an attempt to bring back Mr Peabody & Sherman, characters from a far more innocent time. The result is a film that doesn’t work completely, but contains a few moments of joy nonetheless.
The idea of a dog adopting a human child is an odd one. In this age where we don’t seem to be able to just go with a premise like this, the film makes the smart decision of making it a key part of the plot – and the idea of the need and want to love and be loved, whether you are human or an animal, works rather well. An early sequence detailing how the pair came together has a playful but empathetic nature, which is only really undone by a song spelling things out far too plainly. Later on, the subject of inordinate familial units is brought up and played with, the dog being used as a metaphor for myriad combinations of parents and children who don’t conform to the “norm”. While everything dependably works out, unlike real life, what the film is attempting to say in this respect is something that doesn’t go unnoticed and is stronger for it.
However, this is a film that also embraces what it says on the tin, with time travelling misadventures and a strange fixation on things being pooped out of places you wouldn’t expect. The various locations and the bigger-than-life cast make Mr. Peabody and Sherman feel like it would be catnip to its intended audience. DreamWorks seem to have a certain template to their human characters visually, stretching back to the original Shrek days, which feels somewhat drab, but the action sequences around them do keep the attention; France, Egypt and Italy provide fun locales before the film hits its climax with a fairly standard New York-based finale, which has a lot of whizzing about but also takes its look from countless other sci-fi actioners and feels like an afterthought. To children this won’t matter, though, and it never bores.
It’s also nice that Mr. Peabody is a film that actually tries to educate, even if just a little. Mr Peabody’s manner is one of a teacher and, while this is played for laughs, there are also good little facts and historical information peppered throughout the runtime. It isn’t exactly a history lesson, but it’s also not just about singing songs and pratfalls.
Mr Peabody and Sherman is an enjoyable enough piece of family animation. It never truly startles but does tug at the heartstrings, has more than enough decent jokes and never talks down to its audience. If you want a film for the children this week, this isn’t a bad shout at all.
Rio 2 is available on Sky Movies – and, for non-Sky customers, on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.