Movie Review

March 13, 2014

'Mr. Peabody' doesn't capture charm of original short

Many grown-ups of a certain age were raised on the madcap animated adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and their friends — who memorably included a genius dog and his adopted boy, who traveled around in time.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” brings back that duo in a lightweight adventure that doesn’t quite capture the charm of the original shorts, but also isn’t an embarrassment like previous live-action attempts to re-create Jay Ward’s “Bullwinkle” franchise.

The full-length film is more sappy and sentimental than madcap and punny, which may have been necessary to stretch it out to 90 minutes, but is a little disappointing nonetheless.

“Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell does a solid job mimicking the vocal rhythms of Mr. Peabody, a genius dog who has won an Olympic gold medal and a Nobel Prize, speaks every language and invented Zumba, among many other accomplishments.

Every dog needs a boy, however, and Mr. Peabody has his: dim-witted but lovable Sherman, voiced by Max Charles (TV’s “Neighbors”).

As in every episode of “Peabody’s Improbable History,” the plot revolves around Mr. Peabody’s greatest invention, the WABAC (wayback) machine, which allows the duo to travel back in time and tinker with history.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” adds a third traveler, Penny (Ariel Winter, also from “Modern Family”), an unlikable mean girl who bullies Sherman on the first day of school and coerces him into using the WABAC without permission.

The film visits ancient Egypt, the Trojan War, the Italian Renaissance, the French Revolution and bumps into numerous historical figures for comic effect, with celebrity voices including Mel Brooks, Stanley Tucci and the ever-present Patrick Warburton. Allison Janney is an evil social worker who disapproves of dog parenting, while Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann voice Penny’s parents.

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