The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN"

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

I grew up watching Mr. Peabody and Sherman on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, so I had a natural interest in seeing the new movie about them. My five-year-old son, on the other hand, knew nothing about the characters, yet was also incredibly enthusiastic about seeing it. And that, in a nutshell, is the very cool thing that Mr. Peabody & Sherman pulls off: it does right enough by the characters to please older fans, while also having enough appeal to capture the interest of children previously unacquainted with them.

Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is an intellectually advanced dog who created a time machine, known as the WABAC, and adopted a little orphan boy named Sherman (Max Charles). Upon starting school, Sherman is bullied by female classmate Penny (Ariel Winter). They get in a fight that brings the unwanted attention of Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney), a nasty child welfare worker. Mr. Peabody attempts to smooth the situation over by inviting Penny and her parents for dinner. While there, the girl convinces Sherman to show her the WABAC and, in the process, they are accidentally blasted back to the French Revolution. Mr. Peabody jumps in to rectify the situation, but not before all of them make side trips to Ancient Egypt, Renaissance Italy, and the Trojan War.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman lacks the storytelling elegance that marks the very best animated films; it's essentially just a lark. Even so, it's a fun lark. The movie has a delightfully silly sense of humor, if also perhaps an over-reliance on butt jokes. Historical figures and events are treated with irreverence, while still relating useful knowledge to young viewers. For instance, Marie Antoinette's fondness for cake is fodder for jokes, but then the story goes on to explain that it seemed cruelly extravagant to those who couldn't even afford bread. Rare is the family film that elicits laughter while still imparting something educational. Mr. Peabody and Sherman make great tour guides through history, their wacky misadventures ultimately celebrating the joy of learning.

Aside from also offering good animation and some very clever uses of 3D, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is notable for a positive message about adoption. There's a theme running throughout in which Sherman harbors some discomfort over having a dog for a father. Penny repeatedly tells him that he must be a dog, too. In the end, the boy learns that love is what makes a family, not genetics (or, in this case, species). Adoptive parents and children will doubtlessly respond to the warmness of this idea, which can provide a great opportunity for post-viewing discussion.

Given that our heroes make their way through just four historical periods during the film, there are plenty of opportunities for future adventures. There's a reason these characters have endured and are now on the verge of prospering again. Like Schoolhouse Rock and Sesame Street, they made education fun. Mr. Peabody & Sherman offers appealing situations and plenty of laughs, but don't be surprised if your kids crack a book when it's over, too.

( out of four)


Mr. Peabody & Sherman is rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.


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