I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m a huge animation junkie. I enjoy all different forms of the medium (Handdrawn, Stop-motion,and CGI to name a few) and consider it one of my favorite styles of storytelling. That being said, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Dreamworks Animation. Sometimes they can produce brilliance like Kung Fu Panda 2 or Road to El Dorado, while other times they can produce some films that i just don’t care for and/or can’t stand, such as Shark Tale or Shrek 4. I wasn’t terribly excited when I first heard that they were planning to make a film adaptation of the witty cartoon duo Mr Peabody and Sherman, but at the same time,I figured that a film with the concept of a boy and his dog traveling through time couldn’t be THAT bland…right?
Sadly, the film’s biggest issue is it’s predictability. While the movie moves at a brisk pace and hardly lets up, it seems almost hesitant to do anything original or new with the concept it’s given. Mr Peabody and Shermon go through many times periods such as Ancient Egypt and Renaissance Florence, but none of the locations stand out,because we are simply not given enough time to spend in any of them. Sometimes The film itself doesn’t seem all that interested in it’s own story, which shows through some of the poor jokes and cliché plot elements that it keeps throwing at us.
What saves the the movie from being a complete failure though, is it’s characters and father-son angle to the storyline. Both Mr Peabody and Shermon are very likable and have great chemistry together. They could have easily made their relationship but there’s actually alot of depth to these two. Mr Peabody (voiced by the always wonderful Ty Burrell) is given some interesting conflicts to face throughout the film, and the relationship he has with his son Sherman is actually pulled off very well. The father-son issues that the two face together make the film’s premise more believable then it would have been in the hands of lazy writers. it surprisingly gets very emotional at times, and you grow more and more attached to these characters as the film progresses thanks to their great chemistry and strong bond. Sherman himself is a good character as well, though unfortunately delvers some of the films lesser jokes. There are many other characters spread throughout the film, but none of them get nearly enough the development or screentime, and some of them are reduced to mere jokes rather then characters. At it’s core though, Mr Peabody and Sherman really is a father and son story, and a well executed one.
The animation is fine, though not one of Dreamworks’s best efforts. The highlights come from the diverse change of scenery that we are given throughout the film. The animators obviously brought their A-game when it comes to the locations, and the film manages to give us some truly wonderful set pieces. The film is also fairly action packed, which leads to some fairly imaginative and fun sequences. I’m not a huge fan of the character designs they went with. I understand that they are trying to capture the simplistic look o the original cartoon on the late 50’s to early 60’s, but I just don’t think that it translates well to 3D. The humans in particular range from looking okay to terrible, but Mr Peabody himself looks fine.
Up until this point, there had never been a Dreamworks animated film that was just “Okay” for me. I either thought they were wonderful, or terrible. With Mr Peabody and Sherman however, it truly does fall in the middle. It never reaches the highs of something like Megamind, but it also never reaches the lows of Bee movie. It really is just a simple animated film that should be viewed as just that. Will the kids like it? I’m sure they will. The audience I went to se it with was full of kids,and they all seemed to adore this flick. And I think that if your a fan of the original Cartoon “Peabody’s improbable History” then you will find much more to enjoy about it then I did. As it stands now, Mr Peabody and Sherman is a passable effort from Dreamworks animation. And to be fair, It IS one of the better films I’ve seen that is based on a classic cartoon. (I’m looking at you Scooby Doo, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs,Yogi Bear and countless others.)