I’m not going to lie. I have no idea what the original Mr. Peabody and Sherman (1959) were like. I remember the cartoon with a vague sort of fuzziness similar to the way people born in the nineties remember CatDog (1998-05) or Doug (1991-94)…
I went into the movie expecting the faded recollections of adorable childhood characters to whisk me away into super-fun-time-memory lane… and in a sense, it did. From the establishing shot to the roll of the credits, I felt exactly like a child. Mission accomplished? Well, not really.
The reduction in my mental maturity wasn’t because the movie was taking me back to the glory of my childhood days; it was because the humor and situations (situational humor) used were so completely pedantic, I forgot what “wit” meant.
That isn’t to say the movie was without humour. I’ll admit it: the first few puns got me. Even the brief summary of the French Revolution was educational in a way high school failed to live up to, but by the time the cringe-worthy puns climbed well into the double digits and George Washington was called in to save the day, I was kind of over it.
Considering the original cartoon was so focused on cleverness and the general education of yesterday’s youth, I figured the feature-length movie would make a lot more sense than it did, but somewhere along the transformation, Mr. Peabody and Sherman crossed into absurdity.
I was fine with the impossibly perfect stunt work.
I could deal with the fact that they were prancing around in important historical moments without affecting the space/time continuum.
Most importantly, I came into it willing to ignore the premise that a dog had adopted a human being, which would have been all fine and good had it not become an issue in the narrative itself.
Oh gee, social workers, do you have an issue with a dog raising a child?
Gosh, scholastic system, were you honestly unable to predict the bullying issues this might cause?
If you’re going to question it at all, you might as well tear it the whole thing apart while you’re at it. I mean, how did it come to be that a dog won a Nobel Prize? Did anyone stop to ask how this farm-raised canine came to read and speak? Even setting the basics aside, has anybody considered Mr. Peabody’s age? Going by the popular theory that Mr. Peabody is a beagle, that guy’s only got something like a fifteen-year life expectancy. Since Sherman is seven and a half, that either means that Mr. Peabody won his Nobel Prize at a ridiculously young age, or he’s pretty close to the brink of death, which would probably cause some trauma down the road sooner or later anyway. Alas, one of the many problems of having a dog as a father.
Intense nit-picking aside, after it became fully evident that it wasn’t going to be a nostalgic Tintin (2011) sort of movie, and was more like some sort of mutated CGI version of Dora the Explorer, the overall result was passably entertaining.
The characters were loveable, the animation was reasonably admirable, and the downpour of one-liners managed to get a few chuckles from the parents sprinkled amongst the ocean of children who were about as invested in the story as any kid can be.
Essentially, the movie was very much like plain yogurt.
But it is cute. It really is.
Plausible? Not in the slightest.
Witty? Not even close.
Intellectually engaging? Well, sure, if your vocabulary is limited to single syllable words and the strongest drink you’ve ever had came out of a juice-box.
Maybe I’m being a little too harsh. Maybe I should accept the fact that I am no longer under the age of ten and should therefore lower my standards when going to a G-rated movie. Maybe Mr. Peabody and Sherman is the best thing since the iPad Mini (sliced bread is old hat these days) and I’m just hateful and old, but I’ve seen other children’s movies pull an equal amount of delight from kids and adults alike, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman just didn’t step up to bat.
My advice? Take your kids, take their friends, and take your dog to stand in as their legal parent guardian, so you can head out before the lights dim and revisit the original cartoon.