No way was I paying $14 to be bored to sleep by Slow Motion Swordfight 2: Now With More Beards and Instagram Filters, so my choice this week was cartoons. I only vaguely remembered Mr. Peabody from when I was little, so I could watch the reboot without all those pesky predetermined notions you usually have with a remake.
A hyperintelligent dog tries to keep his adoptive son out of trouble after he messes up the past trying to impress a girl from school.
My major concern was that I would be annoyed by the inevitable historical and scientific inaccuracies, but the movie is so hilarious that I ended up not caring about any of that. It also has some interesting things to say about adoption if you’re paying attention, so it’s both cute and funny. Take the kids. You’ll both like it.
Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is a dog with a bow tie. He’s almost annoyingly smart (and smug) and has invented just about everything according to this movie. As a puppy, no boys wanted to adopt him, so as a grown-up he adopts a boy to fill the void in his life. The boy is Sherman (Max Charles) a clueless screwup who for some reason is only just starting school at the age of seven and a half.
Can I press this big red button that says DON’T TOUCH?
Before school, Mr. Peabody educated Sherman at home by using the WABAC, a time machine that allowed them to take part in historical events. This makes Sherman something of a know-it-all in school and makes him a target for mean girl Penny (Ariel Winter). Penny and Sherman get in a fight, and Mr. Peabody has to invite Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) for dinner to smooth it all over or Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney) will take Sherman away.
You can see where Penny gets her attitude.
While Mr. Peabody does everything short of splitting the atom to impress Penny’s parents, Sherman tries to impress Penny by showing her the WABAC. The two of them go to the past, Sherman loses Penny in Ancient Egypt, and Mr. Peabody has to come bail them out. The rest of the movie consists of them hopping back and forth between time periods as one problem after another crops up to prevent them from getting back to the dinner party.
Oh no, the WABAC is way over on the OTHER side of Thebes, etc.
The historical figures are the funniest part of the movie. Mr. Peabody is full of terrible puns (old Giza, if at first you don’t succeed Troy Troy again, etc.), Penny is the physical embodiment of peer pressure, and Sherman is a bit of a dunderhead, so I wouldn’t call them funny. But when Agamemnon (Patrick Warburton) takes a tiny horse gift into his giant gift horse and Maximillian Robespierre (Guillaume Aretos) gets tased – that’s funny.
OOH LA LA!!
The history itself is accurate to the depth of a one sentence blurb in an almanac for preschoolers, but they’re obviously doing it on purpose because they play anachronisms for laughs. They also deliberately don’t talk enough about the science behind the time machine to contradict themselves later, but the movie does seem to be of the opinion that in order to fly an airplane, you just have to BELIEVE you can.
I don’t remember a Little Engine That Could section on the pilot’s exam.
A dog that plays guitar, bakes Alaska, and invents time machines.
You could easily substitute ‘dog’ for ‘gay person’ (or whatever you want) if you care to draw parallels with the real world. Mr. Peabody struggles to keep Sherman in the face of blanket opposition to all dogs adopting kids. And the (mean) kids at school (Penny) ask the inevitable question: if Sherman is being raised by a dog, does that mean he’s a dog too? Even Sherman doesn’t really know at first.
SHERMAN: Can I hold your hand, Dad?
MR. PEABODY: That’s not my hand. And my name is Mr. Peabody.
So there are lots of reasons to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman. 1) It’s funny. 2) It sneakily teaches children topical historical facts. 3) It gets you thinking about adoption. 4) It will appeal to both children and grown-ups, and 5) Anything is better than another $%#@ 300 movie!