Mr. Peabody & Sherman (film review by Frank Ochieng).

March 8, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Babyboomers may understandably embrace their nostalgic childhood roots when being treated to the simple cartoon tale of a boy and his dog…wait…make that a reversal sentiment of a dog and his boy as demonstrated in the glossy and slick animated feature filmNaturally, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ originated from the creative world of Jay Ward Productions that brought us the 1960’s classic Cold War kiddie romp ‘The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show’. Specifically, the impish pairing of the traveling tandem Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman, was seen in the rollicking segment ‘Peabody’s Improbable History’ on the aforementioned ‘The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show’. 

mr-peabody-sherman-2The premise was quite adventurous and straight-forward as Mr. Peabody and Sherman would take TV viewers on a wacky journey through the brilliant brainy beagle’s WABAC time machine where the duo would encounter some of history’s celebrated yet irreverent figures and help along in ensuring that the historical occurrences are preserved accurately. The time-traveling venture usually included off-the-cuff gags and eye-rolling puns that worked fabulously for the wry humor that accompanied the silly-minded ‘Peabody Improbable History’ spot.

Joyously flippant and smartly conceived, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ is a devilish kick-in-the-pants farce that maintains a nutty spirit to its family friendly flavoring. The movie never will have the genuine charm of its cheesy wise-cracking original boob tube blueprint from five decades ago. Still, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ manages to overcome the critical and overwrought lapses that hampered its other dreadful Jay Ward-related big screen fare from the past such as the sluggish offerings of the forgettable ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’, ‘George Of The Jungle’, ‘Boris And Natasha’ and ‘Dudley Do-Right’. The animation in ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ is crisply spry and imaginative in its glorified 3-D visual vibrancy. Sure, this updated take on the bespectacled time-traveling twosome has some edgy spunk to its inner core but ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ nevertheless stays faithful to its pledge in being a screwy escapist cartoon caper with excitable punch.

The familiar backstory to the legions of animation fans that highly regard this dog-boy union is that Mr. Peabody (as voiced by the Emmy-winning Ty Burrell from ABC-TV’s ‘Modern Family’) is a Harvard-educated and Nobel Prize-winning scientific genius that happened to adopt an inquisitive red-headed lad named Sherman (as voiced by Max Charles). In an effort to instill some intellect and curiosity in his ‘son’, the knowledgeable and confident Mr. Peabody built the WABAC (pronounced ‘way back’) time machine to fortify Sherman’s academic mind. Thus, the bow-tie wearing beagle and his boy wonder approach their wayward travels with a bonding experience that is sure to make one scratch his/her head in wild amusement.

The richness behind ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ is that it stays true to its kooky convictions and never strays away from the formula that made it a treasured treat for juveniles and grown-ups alike during the vintage part of the early to mid 1960s. There is a mixture of absurdity and poignancy that touches upon the issues of bullying (courtesy of Sherman’s classroom rival in a pushy history-loving hussy named Penny as voiced by Ariel Winter), adoption (why can’t a clever canine play Daddy Dearest to a human tot?) and of course our heroes’ random run-ins with some of the most notable historical hotshots this side of an hour-long social studies session.

What a dog day afternoon for beagle brainiac Mr. Peabody and his tyke tag-a-long Sherman in 20th Century Fox's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."

What a dog day afternoon for beagle brainiac Mr. Peabody and his tyke tag-a-long Sherman in 20th Century Fox’s “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”

Director and co-writer Rob Minkoff (‘The Lion King’, ‘Stuart Little’) and his crafty animation handlers deliver a lively and off-kilter kiddie fantasy that captures the essence of its adventurous overtones with showy pit-stops to ancient Troy, Egypt, the French Revolution, the Renaissance period and the original American colonies…just to name a few stimulating getaways. The stable of voice artists involved are a who’s who of talented television veterans from TV’s ‘Seinfeld’/’The Tick’/’Rules Of Engagement’ star Patrick Warburton as battle bad boy Achilles to Mom regular Allison Janney playing a ball-busting social worker Miss Grunion looking to break up the familial and collaborative ties between Mr. Peabody and Sherman. As the lead vocals for the erudite Mr. Peabody, Burrell is quite effective and enthusiastic as the four-legged know-it-all at the controls of the zany mayhem. Burrell will not make anyone forget Mr. Peabody’s first voice-over mastermind Bill Scott any time soon but the ‘Modern Family’ titan holds his own. Charles seems energetic and endearing as the nerdy Sherman.

With all the playful sci-fi side-dishing of shenanigans concerning wormholes, historical hot spot visitations and an articulate dog’s overall propensity for universal greatness, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ is a dizzy and delightful gem that allows maturing audiences to soundly recall their childish days of youthfulness without the benefit of Peabody’s iconic WABAC contraption.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)

STARRING: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Mel Brooks, Stephen Colbert, Ariel Winter, Stephen Tobolowsky, Stanley Tucci, Leslie Mann and Allison Janney

DIRECTED BY: Rob Minkoff

MPAA RATING: PG

RUNNING TIME: 92 mins.

DISTRIBUTED BY: 20th Century Fox

CRITIC’S RATING: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

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Category: Fantasy, Films, MEDIA

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About the Author ()

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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  1. avatar Jim DeLorenzo says:

    The DreamWorks Animation motion picture, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” which opens in theatres nationwide on Friday, March 7th, contains the following credit: “Sherman and Peabody are based upon the characters and format created by Ted Key.”

    Although his name is unfamiliar today, when Key created the characters that became Peabody and Sherman in the late 1950s, he was one of the best-known cartoonists in the country. The reason was “Hazel,” his comic panel about a bossy-but-warm-hearted maid that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, a weekly general-circulation magazine published by the then-Philadelphia-based Curtis Publishing Co.

    Hazel would shortly become even better known as the title character of a situation comedy that ran in prime time from 1961 through 1966, garnering its star, Shirley Booth, two Emmy Awards.

    Key’s involvement with Peabody and Sherman came at the behest of his brother, Leonard, who was trying to help his long-time friend Jay Ward land a sponsor for a cartoon show featuring a plucky flying squirrel named Rocky and a dimwitted moose named Bullwinkle.

    Cereal maker General Mills agreed to sponsor the show, but wanted it to be a half hour. That meant Ward needed more characters. So, Leonard Key turned to Ted Key, who responded by creating a storyboard for an animated cartoon called “Johnny Daydream.” It featured a boy named Johnny Daydream and his pet, Beware the Dog, who traveled through time using devices on Johnny’s belt and Beware’s collar.

    With input from Ward and his co-producer, writer and voice actor Bill Scott, the time-traveling boy and dog became a time-traveling dog and boy. Beware, who was a snooty, talking dog in the Johnny Daydream storyboard, morphed into Mr. Peabody, a genius dog scientist, and Johnny became his adopted boy, Sherman.

    When “Rocky and His Friends” debuted in the fall of 1959, Peabody and Sherman were in it. The pair starred in 91 episodes of “Peabody’s Improbable History” over the next five years.

    Key’s role in creating Peabody and Sherman wasn’t mentioned in the credits for “Rocky and His Friends,” but he was listed as a claimant in the copyright registrations for both characters, along with Ward and Scott.

    Hazel ran in The Saturday Evening Post through 1969 and has been distributed to newspapers by King Features Syndicate since, even though Key stopped drawing it in 1993 and died in 2008. Eleven collections of Hazel cartoons have been published in book form. All five seasons of the Hazel TV show are available on DVD and the show airs in the United States on Antenna TV.

    Key’s other notable creations include:

    • Three children’s books published by E.P. Dutton & Co. – “So’M I,” “Phyllis” and “The Biggest Dog in the World,” which was the basis for the 1973 movie, “Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World;”

    • The stories for three 1970s Walt Disney Co. movies, “The Million Dollar Duck,” “Gus” and “The Cat from Outer Space,” the last of which Key wrote the screenplay for and novelized;

    • “Diz and Liz,” a two-page cartoon spread about a brother and sister that ran in Jack and Jill, Curtis Publishing’s monthly magazine for children, for much of the 1960s;

    • “Positive Attitude Posters,” a line of motivational posters featuring Key’s cartoons that were sold to businesses biweekly from the mid 1960s through the end of the 20th century.

    Key’s youngest son, Peter, wrote gags for the “Hazel” comic panel from 1975 through 1983 and, after getting an MBA, worked as a business journalist from 1985 through 2013, spending the last 15 years at the Philadelphia Business Journal. Peter Key talks about his father’s contribution to Peabody and Sherman in the new documentary currently streaming on Netflix documentary, “DreamWorks Presents: Mr. Peabody & Sherman – A Journey WABAC.”

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