After the February smash hit: "The Lego Movie," "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" certainly does have a tough act to follow. Despite this, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" certainly does bring another high-quality piece of family entertainment to the big screen.
Surprisingly, the film's story is quite strong. Based on the retro cartoon of the same name, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" centers on a highly intelligent dog named Mr. Peabody (excellently voiced by Modern Family star, Ty Burrell) who adopts a young boy named Sherman (also excellently voiced by 8-year-old Max Charles). Peabody takes Sherman on adventures through time with his super advanced time machine known as the "Way Back". After a series of incidents, the duo must travel to different time periods and eventually have to fix a potential hole in the space time continuum.
Many recent films based on retro cartoons (such as the abysmal "Scooby Doo" and "Smurfs" films) have failed to provide a good screenplay to accompany its animated hijinks. This film, however, is packed with witty dialogue and good morals about unconventional families, fatherhood, and childhood struggles. Mr. Peabody and Sherman are surprisingly deep characters. The fact that Sherman has been raised by a dog does eventually cause a rift between the two. In the beginning of the movie, Sherman is teased at school and called a "dog" because his father is one. Also faced with his own maturing, Sherman wishes to do more things on his own. Peabody, meanwhile is apprehensive of Sherman doing things on his own, as he fears inside that Sherman will outgrow him. This is quite a lot of conflict for a "kid's movie."
Luckily, the thematic elements are interspersed with charming humor and exciting visuals. Each time period is filled with beautifully animated landscapes and enjoyable characters with top-notch vocal performances. In 18th century France, Marie Antoinette (voiced by Lauri Fraser) is portrayed as a bubbly, naive, cake-obsessed aristocrat who is constantly stuffing her face with dessert. In ancient Egypt, palm trees, pyramids and towering statues show a clear rose gallery of effort from the animation team.
It's also worth pointing out that this film has some of the finest voice acting I have ever heard in an animated feature. Ty Burrell and Max Charles bring believable emotion and jocularity to Peabody and Sherman respectively. Burrell gives Peabody a suitably intellectual and clear sounding voice, giving an extra jolt of likability to the character. Max Charles shows an excessive amount of talent for an 8- year-old (probably younger when the dialogue was recorded), making Sherman a believable young boy with a roller-coaster of emotions throughout. An all-star supporting cast including Steve Colbert, Ariel Winter, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Dennis Haysbert, Allison Janney, Leslie Mann and even Mel Brooks are certainly a treasure to listen to as well.
In regards to its historical accuracy, though this film does certainly have its share of jarring anachronisms (such as heart-printed underwear and an actual working flying machine made by Leonardo da Vinci), there is certainly a decent amount of informative elements in the historical scenes. Kids may actually be delighted to learn about how Marie Antoinette helped ignite the French Revolution and how George Washington didn't really cut down a cherry tree. The film makes the wise decision of being a colorful family adventure film while still having some informative elements. LA Times' film critic Betsey Sharkey recently criticized this movie for being "too smart for its own good," saying: "Mr. Peabody's "teaching moments" will sail right over the heads of kids while requiring adults to pay attention." With all due respect, Ms. Sharkey, I feel like the "teaching moments" are what make this movie stand out from other family fare. The fact that the filmmakers bring some education to the screenplay really shows that they have faith in a kid's ability to watch a movie.
In all fairness, one common criticism I do somewhat understand is the film's somewhat convoluted second act. Without giving anything away, I do have to admit things get pretty hectic. However, after many years of watching movies with time travel, I've learned to put down my complaint notebook and enjoy the movie. Let's face it: it's pretty much a guarantee that a movie involving time travel will have at least a couple of plot holes. Even excellent time travel films like "Looper" and "Back to the Future" have plot holes. However, those discussions are for another day.
At the end of the day, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is a beautiful, funny, and even heartfelt film that families from every background will get a kick out of. It is enjoyable to watch, and I dare even say it's one of Dreamworks' best efforts to date.
Review by didonatope from the Internet Movie Database.