FROM A TEXAS MULTIPLEX — For viewers who remember “Peabody’s Improbable History” from the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoons, there’s probably a heavy nostalgia/novelty factor surrounding “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.” And as someone who does indeed remember those 1950s/1960s shorts – through reruns – I was intrigued by the possibility of seeing Mr. Peabody and his sidekick on the big screen, rendered in splendid digital animation.
Aesthetically speaking, “Improbable” was a low-rent affair, with animation quality that, by today’s standards, could probably be improved by any animator-in-training with a high-end computer. Fortunately, “Improbable’s” writing and voice talent made up for the bargain-basement visuals, and the time-traveling adventures of the genius beagle and his adopted boy were witty, entertaining and memorable.
Of course, those old short cartoons were exactly that – short. At four minutes apiece, there wasn’t much room for fat, fluff or excess; and indeed, the animators and writers made the most of what they had. So although “Peabody” 2014 is indeed gorgeous to behold, viewers would be justified, I think, in wondering if modern filmmakers can match “Peabody’s” overall entertainment quality with its visual excellence.
Moviegoers needn’t worry, though: “Peabody” is a fantastic film; it’s well-written, witty, fast-paced and all-around fun and entertaining. It’s that rare animated flick that will probably appeal more to adults than it does to children – and that’s no small accomplishment; this is a family-friendly, kid-centric film through and through.
“Peabody” shares the same basic story with its progenitor: a freak-of-nature white beagle has accomplished everything an ivy-league-educated prodigy can accomplish and wants to tackle the ultimate challenge: parenting.
As the film opens, Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) has been Sherman’s (Max Charles) adopted dad for many years, and we see the adoption story told later, in flashback.