Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Sherman's Dad is both a dog and Phil Dunphy!  Color me jealous!

Mr. Peabody & Sherman – 3 out of 5

Growing up, I used to watch reruns of The Bullwinkle Show and particularly enjoyed the segments titled “Peabody’s Improbable History.”  The snarky little dog with his adopted pet human named Sherman were quite amusing to my little boy brain.  However, as time passed by and I grew up, I ultimately forgot about the time travelling duo…until their cartoon was adapted for a feature length film.

"Punch it, Mr. Peabody...make sure to not hit any wayward phone booths with
two smart-ass teenagers in them."

Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a genius but, like most geniuses, he feels alone and he ultimately adopts a young boy named Sherman (Max Charles).  In an effort to educate Sherman on history, Mr. Peabody invented the time machine called the TARDIS WABAC (“way back,” get it?  Good...maybe you can explain it to me...I don't get it.).  Unfortunately, it’s not easy being a human with a dog for a daddy and Sherman starts to get harassed by fellow classmate Penny (Ariel Winter).  Her bullying leads to Sherman biting her and this brings about the attention of child services.  In an effort to prove he’s a good father, Mr. Peabody decides to smooth over the ordeal himself but Sherman ends up causing even more trouble when he shows Penny the WABAC.  Now, time is screwed up and Mr. Peabody must fix it…and stop child services from taking away his son.

He may be smart but he's still naïve enough to believe there is aerobic
benefits to yoga.

Watching the trailer—this trailer…

I was reminded about the days of coming home from school and prolonging any homework long enough to watch a rerun of The Bullwinkle Show and laughing at the emotional abuse that Sherman was clearly going through but I was powerless to stop due to the chuckles.  I was sold on seeing the film and sold on seeing it in the theaters…well, the budget theater, anyway.  While the movie received a lot of positive reviews, I walked out with a sorta “meh” feeling and saw the movie as nothing more than an average adventure for me.  The movie was entertaining, had a few funny moments, and never really gets bad at any time but it just wasn’t spectacular enough to be anything more than a middle-of-the-road thing for me.

The sheen on that floor, on the other hand...that's a 5 out of 5 shine!

First off, while the movie has some humorous moments, the film never really had me in laughing fits.  I wasn’t honestly expecting a laugh riot because, even though I would laugh at the original cartoon, I never found the source material to be gut-busting.  However, the film did have its moments that kept the film flowing and stopped it from being completely boring.  Additionally, the film has some tremendous voice actors doing their thing and really helped the movie stand out.

The WABAC looks like one of those uncomfortable "egg" chairs from
the 70s.  Which, somehow, makes me want one even more.

You look at this character's design and it just screams,
"Have Patrick Warburton voice me."
I’m a big fan of the character Phil Dunphy and, in turn, am a big fan of Ty Burrell and, without a doubt, having him as Mr. Peabody was my favorite aspect about the film.  Sure, his voice isn’t as iconic in the role as Bill Scott was in the original cartoon but Burrell wasn’t a slouch and he really brought the character to life and made him a sympathetic.  He is mirrored by a great performance from Max Charles as Sherman and his Modern Family co-star Ariel Winter as Penny.  In all honesty, the voice acting might have been the best part about this film because, aside from Burrell, Charles and Winter, the film also has such talents as Dennis Haysbert (making me feel like I need Allstate), Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks, Jess Harnell and Stanley Tucci.  This film did not flop at all with its cast.

Geez, his arm is about to detach itself and fly into orbit...

"Why does my dad always scoot his ass across the
Another thing I really enjoyed about Mr. Peabody & Sherman was the adjustments made to the relationship between son and dog.  In the original cartoon, Peabody treated Sherman like a pet rather than a child he wants to raise and love (Hell, in the first cartoon, Peabody is looking to adopt and checking out children the way a family checks out pets—there’s even a boy in a window with his tongue hanging out like a dog).  I’m not saying this dynamic was a bad thing because it worked on the grounds for comedy with the whole “flip the script” thing and having their roles reversed (although, having a dog adopt a boy instead of the opposite sounds like something someone comes up with when they’re high) but having Peabody look to have a child and see him come into his own with fatherhood was a nice change.  Sure, it changed the slightly antagonistic relationship the two had in the source material but it made for a more touching, family-oriented story.

Their running through the sewers would have moved faster if Peabody
didn't have to stop and roll in everything.

The one thing that kept me from enjoying this movie as much as I was hoping I would was the way the film couldn’t balance the two points of conflict in the story.  So, the story has the threat of Peabody having Sherman taken away from him but it also has the consequences of saving Penny and Sherman from the destruction they’ve caused to the timeline.  While it is a requirement to have time travel in the story (that was the whole point of the cartoon, after all) and the additional point was made to have the relationship be a little more affectionate in the film, the two elements just end up not merging well.  The threat of losing Sherman is thrown in right away and is the main focus for the begin quarter of the film but once the romp through time is inserted, this element is regulated to only a few casual mentions right next to talks about how hard it is to raise children.  The threat doesn’t feel like it is still there until it is suddenly once again released on the plot like a rabid monkey at a buffet table.  Suddenly the threat is there again but it is quickly pushed away for the consequences of messing with time.  Then, at the end, the threat of losing Sherman is just tossed aside and resolved in a manner that is more convenient than lesson-learning.

"Hello, I'm here to threaten you with taking your human child away but will quickly
disappear from the story only to return and have my threat resolved in a way
that actually causes more problems that are never addressed and simply
swept under the rug after they take place...anyway, how are you?"

The marriage of these two conflicts could have worked if the right balance was secured but, as it is, it didn’t feel locked down to me.  While messy, the film is still watchable but it just didn’t feel as feathered out as it needed to be. 

Yeah...that could be a problem.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman isn’t a terrible animated film, it just wasn’t the strongest one for me.  As a family film, the movie might bore some younger viewers as the film drags in parts and the whole CPS aspect might fly over their heads but the film has a great voice acting cast, some decent humor, Peabody and Sherman’s relationship and the evolution it takes is tender and sweet, and all this equaled out to be just entertaining enough to be a one-shot viewing for me...although it was weird that a segment of the film is dedicated to the inaccuracies that are taught in history class and the film proceeds to have some major discrepancies in their own representation of the past.  This would be a great time for Mr. Peabody to suddenly show up and say, “Quiet you!”

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