Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a super intelligent dog. Society has recognized his genius and even allowed him to adopt a son, Sherman (Max Charles). In order to give Sherman the most thorough education possible, Mr. Peabody uses a time machine he invented, called the WABAC (or the “Way Back Machine”), to travel to history. This allows Sherman to experience history as it happened, rather than just read it from a book. Sherman tends to find ways to get himself into trouble through his curiosity. This causes some unexpected detours on their travels through time.
The kids at Sherman’s school are aware of his parental situation. Especially Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter), who taunts Sherman about being a dog until Sherman bites Penny. This incident prompts Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney), a social service worker, to reevaluate Mr. Peabody’s fitness as a parent to a boy. Trying to resolve the problem before Ms. Grunion’s visit, Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) to dinner.
During dinner, Penny taunts Sherman until he shows her the WABAC, despite Mr. Peabody’s explicit directions not to tell her about it. Not only does Sherman show her the WABAC, she pressures him into traveling back in time. When things don’t go as planned, Sherman goes back to get Mr. Peabody to help. The adventure that follows takes them to Ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Renaissance.
Through their travels, they inadvertently cause a rift in the time-space continuum. Mr. Peabody and Sherman must find a way to correct the rift before the universe is torn apart. And what will become of the situation with Ms. Grunion?
I vaguely remember seeing Mr. Peabody and Sherman shorts while watching The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show as a kid. I don’t remember much about it, aside from the characters and the time travel. Without going back and watching them again, I would imagine that the film stays fairly true to the shorts. I’m sure it has been updated since it aired 50 or so years ago (I watched Rocky & Bullwinkle reruns, not when it originally aired), and quite a bit of context added to take it from shorts to a feature-length movie.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman borrows heavily from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Time travel for educational purposes. The characters’ sometimes bumbling interactions with historical figures. Finding themselves in perilous situations. Those same historical figures finding themselves in the present. A time machine that needs help to get back to the present. Even the tubes through which they travel through time. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it wasn’t subtle in my eyes. I loved Bill & Ted’s growing up, so, naturally, I enjoyed Mr. Peabody & Sherman as well.
The cast is packed with actors whose voices and comedic stylings mesh well with an animated feature. Ty Burrell, playing a smart yet somewhat detached father, the polar opposite of his lovable character on Modern Family. Patrick Warburton, possibly one of the actors best suited to play a cartoon character. Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann, both sorely underused. The chemistry, or intentional lack thereof, were written and executed perfectly.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman gives you a bit more of a history lesson than Bill & Ted’s. And it works for the film. Your kids will get a short education on some important events in history, whether they realize they are learning or not. It is a fun trek through history, though. Plenty of funny moments. And the writers thought enough ahead to pack the movie full of jokes for the parents in attendance. Nothing risqué, just subtle references that the kids won’t get. Throw in an intense or touching moment, and it makes for a very enjoyable movie.
Your kids will love Mr. Peabody Sherman, and you’ll be entertained, which, let’s be honest, that’s what we’re really looking for in a kid’s movie.