Director: Rob Minkoff
Starring: Ty Burrel, Max Charles, Leslie Mann
Release Date: February 7th
It doesn’t seem immediately obvious why half a century after their TV show ended, Mr Peabody (a genius anthropomorphic dog) and Sherman (his adopted human son) have been given their own film.
Sherman, having spent the first few years of his life traveling to some of the most important periods in history with Mr Peabody in his WABAC machine, gets into a fight with a bully named Penny on his first day of school. In an attempt to defuse the ensuing discord, Mr Peabody invites Penny and her parents for a dinner party in the apartment he shares with Sherman.
When Penny gets into a spot of trouble in ancient Egypt she, Mr Peabody, and Sherman take the WABAC machine on an adventure through history on their way back to the present.
It’s this aspect of the film that works best. There’s something quite enthralling about seeing the various periods our heroes visit, and the humour in these segments is much more well observed, on the whole, than in the frame story. This is one of the big problems with the film though.
As enjoyable as these segments are, they just serve to lead us back to the main story, which holds much less interest. Part of this is due to the fact that, while the historical sequences are driven by Sherman and Penny, the present-day story is much more focused on Mr Peabody himself.
For a character that should be so interesting, Mr Peabody is, for much of the movie, a bore. Ty Burrell’s voicing is monotonous and oddly emotionless. As a result it feels as though Mr Peabody doesn’t have any passion for what he does.
It’s as if this is what a genius dog would do, so this is what he does. The supporting cast is decent, though, with Stanley Tucci, Leslie Mann and Stephen Colbert all putting in good turns.
Visually, the most impressive parts of the film are, again, those set in the distant past. The vibrant colours of the Renaissance are easily more alluring than the bland ones used for modern New York. It all contributes to the desire to get away from these scenes and back to the past. It did not have to be this way.
There are countless films that make modern cities visually appealing. Really, what the film is missing is a consistent sense of fun. We get glimpses of adventure and a few good jokes, but it’s just too inconsistent to stop parts of the film from feeling like a chore. At 92 minutes that’s a real problem. A film this short should not feel so long.
In a nutshell: A patchy, if entertaining, adventure that ultimately proves mediocre.