Mr. Peabody & Sherman
dir Rob Minkoff
scr Craig Wright
prd Denise Nolan Cascino, Alex Schwartz
voices Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Ariel Winter, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Lake Bell, Mel Brooks, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Tobolowsky
release UK 7.Feb.14, US 7.Mar.14
14/US DreamWorks 1h32
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
A dog and his boy: Sherman and Peabody

burrell tucci janney
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Mr. Peabody & Sherman Another of animator Jay Ward's 1960s anarchic creations (see Rocky & Bullwinkle) comes to the big screen for an energetic romp that works mainly because the screenwriter aims for adults, leaving kids to enjoy the visual mayhem. The film is a riot of jokes and puns, both verbally and visually.

Smart dog Peabody (voiced by Burrell) turned his lonely puppyhood into global acclaim as an artist, inventor and all-round Renaissance pooch. After adopting the human boy Sherman (Charles), life is a swirl of adventures in their Way Back time machine until Sherman has to start school and runs across mean girl Penny (Winter) and aggressive Child Services officer Mrs Grunion (Janney). To sort this out, Peabody invites Penny, her parents (Colbert and Mann) and Grunion to dinner. But Penny takes off in the Way Back, causing all sorts of historical trouble.

The movie dashes through Ancient Egypt, the Italy of Da Vinci (Tucci) and Agamemnon's (Warburton) Trojan War, gleefully subverting history with snappy gags and a barrage of silly comedy, fart jokes, historical revisionism and movie references. Most of this bypass the kids in the audience, but they'll be entranced by the absurd premise, outrageously kinetic pacing and playful use of 3D. They may have never heard of Mr Peabody or Sherman before (indeed, most of their parents probably haven't), but they'll be begging for more now.

Obviously, the possibilities are endless. Despite drifting into a far too big Avengers-style final action sequence, the movie keeps the focus on characters who are a bundle of vivid details. The animation may be plasticky and bland, and the chaos a bit relentless, but the witty design work and snappy dialog make up for that. And the voice actors combine to create a wide range of amusing characters.

There's also, of course, an educational aspect to it, using surreal goofiness to explore history, especially the notion that what really happened might not be quite what we read in our textbooks. But this isn't laid on too thickly, nor is the whole "family is what you make it" idea of a dog and his boy struggling to become a real father and son. But in the end, after non-stop laughter, you'll be surprised when your heart skips briefly at the sight of a wagging tail.

cert u themes, mild violence and vulgarity 1.Feb.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall