A certain fear washes over me every time I go see a new Dreamworks animated movie. Unlike its more illustrious animation rival Pixar, Dreamworks has a track record that is less than stellar.
For every “How to Train Your Dragon” it seems like there is a “Shark Tale” shortly after. Fortunately, with “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” Dreamworks hit the mark.
The film follows the titular Mr. Peabody, a Nobel Prize-winning genius who happens to be a talking dog, and his adopted human son Sherman as they use Peabody’s time machine, the WABAC, to learn about history firsthand. Things move along swimmingly for the duo until Sherman starts his first day of school.
At school, Sherman gets in an altercation with a school bully named Penny and ultimately bites her. The incident attracts the attention of a Children’s Services agent Ms. Grunion, who threatens to remove Sherman from Peabody’s care.
In order to prevent this, Peabody invites Penny and her family to dinner at his home. While Peabody impresses Penny’s parents, he leaves Sherman to patch things up with Penny. As Sherman goes about making amends with Penny, he spills the beans about the WABAC, and from here hijinks ensue.
After Penny is left stranded in ancient Egypt, Sherman enlists his adoptive father to save the day. From there, Sherman, Peabody and Penny find themselves in numerous times and places as they cross paths with King Tut, the Trojan army, Leonardo da Vinci and others.
Despite the complex historical plot, the film manages to avoid getting bogged down in the details. Instead, it focuses on keeping things light and fun, which it does incredibly well.
“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” provides no shortage of laughs, as witty jokes, plentiful puns courtesy of Peabody and historical references collide in an incredibly smart and hilarious manner. Delivery of lines is sharp and fresh, especially from Ty Burrell, the voice of Peabody.
Taking a note out of the Pixar book, the film has plenty of sentimental moments that are really touching, with Peabody and Sherman’s father and son dynamic being
Thankfully, the film manages to be sweet without becoming overly sappy. The tender moments are balanced out by plenty of humor and action, as the film strikes the perfect balance of all three.
In terms of visuals, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” can compete with the best in the animation world. The film is visually delighting, and the character design is charming
One of the highlights of the film, from both a visual and emotional standpoint, is when Sherman and Penny use one of da Vinci’s flying machines to soar around Renaissance Florence. The scene is a turning point in their relationship, and is visually stunning, with incredibly energetic and gorgeous visuals that ooze a sense of freedom and fun.
There are a few parts where the film is lacking however. Some parts of the film, like the Trojan War, introduce characters who are truly funny and do affect the plot, but the scenes are too brief and the characters are too absent for the rest of the film to really feel like they added to the experience.
Another problem I had with the film was the character of Grunion. The character, who serves as the main antagonist, is incredibly one-dimensional and has little backstory. She hates Peabody and desperately wants to remove Sherman from his care, but her motivations and the reason for this animosity toward Peabody are never really explained.
Despite these issues, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” manages to stay funny, sweet and, above all, fun.