Mr Peabody & Sherman is a new Dreamworks animated adventure from the director of The Lion King. The film is based on characters from the 1960s TV series The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.
Mr Peabody and Sherman might be more familiar to American audiences than in the UK, and even then, only as a peculiar relic of the zany 60’s TV series, Rocky and Bullwinkle. But it’s a testament to the enduring power of well-crafted characters, that the unlikely duo return with a charming, endearing, and genuinely laugh out loud film, that will be adored by kids and grown ups alike this year.
Children’s movies overlooked
The Oscars 2014 may not have much in the way of kids’ movies on its roster, but this well-honed story could be a contender for future award seasons. Charting the adventures of a hyper-intelligent talking dog and his adopted son could easily be a set up for lots of madcap adventures, without needing much in the way of serious substance to back it up. But what gives Mr Peabody and Sherman a special edge, is that it succeeds in combining fun and frivolous slapstick mayhem, with a softer, subtler look at relationships, growing up, flying the nest, and other ‘Big Life Lessons’, without being too cloyingly sweet and saccharine.
The duo travel back through time with Mr Peabody’s WABAC machine – imagine Phillipe Starck re-designing the Tardis and you’ll get an idea of the glossy, minimalistic orb that zips through wobbly time tunnels. All of these time tunnels conveniently land the duo in the middle of history’s most important moments. This leads naturally to a playful, but not uninteresting, history lesson, from ancient Egypt and Troy, to the accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci, Ghandi, the Wright Brothers and more.
Kooky and retro
Thrown into the mix is an annoying school bully, the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the adoption process (made a little more complicated when the would-be parent is a dog), and the greatest figures from human history, all brought into the bustling world of the modern city. Dreamworks also keeps the kooky, retro look, faithful to the original show, with a mash-up of the Jetsons’ gadget-filled futuristic home, and simple, pared down primary colour graphics.
Adults can enjoy it too!
There’s lots of humour to enjoy throughout too. Fans of the old school cartoon will be relieved to see that the 2014 reboot has not taken away any of the delightfully awful puns that were a staple part of the original kids’ show. Yes, you will cringe and cover your eyes, but you’ll be loving them really! For contemporary kids, there is plenty of action, silliness and fantasy, but grown ups get a generous serving of intelligent comedy too. References to Oedipus complexes, the Clinton scandal and Spartacus, are surprisingly smart but well-played jokes, ensuring that adults aren’t left zoned out in a zombie state while they oversee their young wards. All that, and a sweet little montage set to John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, means this is a film that will leave plenty of smiling faces by the time the credits roll.