Mr. Peabody is a super-intelligent talking dog that takes his adopted human son Sherman on adventures. Oh, and a time machine is also involved. It sounds pretty unoriginal, but before you scoff, keep in mind that it’s a DreamWorks film.
Living up to the expectations of this pedigree (pun intended), “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a clever extravaganza with hilarity suitable for all ages.
Like most of DreamWorks’ greatest hits, the movie operates under the premise that it’s for a younger crowd, but it ensures that no adult is left feeling like their intelligence and comedic tastes have been ignored. Subtly placed throughout the film, but almost as frequent as the slapstick gags that crack the kids up, are little cerebral Easter eggs for the observant and moderately well-read among us.
In one example, Sherman pulls out a lunchbox with a depiction of Stephen Hawking, the words “A Brief History of Lunch” placed above — a parody of his famous book. In another, the mythical King Agamemnon, voiced by quintessential jock Patrick Warburton, mentions how awkward it is to be at Oedipus’ house during the holidays. And if you pay close attention to the background of the climactic scene near the end of the movie, you can see former President Bill Clinton putting the moves on Mona Lisa.
The genius of these jokes is that the over-concerned parents in the audience don’t have to worry about explaining anything to their children. The adult humor is either innocuous, inconspicuous or academic, ensuring kids just unconsciously skip over trying to interpret it.
What they focus on instead are the funny voices, people falling down, and multiple instances of characters emerging from the butts of famous monuments, something that, admittedly, is pretty amusing.
Much of the comedy like this comes from classic time travel clichés once exhausted by Hollywood. In this film though, it has found new life.
Paradoxes, doubles trying to avoid each other, and low-fuel levels are thrown around in “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” so casually that their obviousness becomes a key ingredient in the fun.
Another ingredient is the impeccable timing. Throughout the body of the film, the characters jet around through wormholes to various historical locales, finding adventure and making friends in each one.
The main worry with a plot of this sort is that they will spend too much or too little time in each place, leaving the movie unbalanced. Remarkably though, the disparate stories spun in each destination are well developed, and come to satisfying mini conclusions in the ideal amount of time.
And of course, these characters and stories all come together in a classic grand gathering in the present day, resolving the over-arching battle with the obligatory evil Child Protective Services agent.
In short, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” does not have an original plot, its characters are all ones we know and it’s predictable at every turn, but if you have any sense of humor, you need to take everyone you know to see this movie.
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