Monday, March 10, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman [2014]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (K. McFarland) review

Mr. Peabody & Sherman [2014] (directed by Rob Minkoff, screenplay by Craig Wright, based on the children's animated cartoon series by the same name [IMDb] by Jay Ward that used to appear during the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show [IMDb] in the United States in the early 1960s. is about the super intelligent beagle Mr. Peabody [IMDb] (voiced by Ty Burrell) and _his_ "pet"/"owner," the little boy Sherman [IMDb] (voiced by Mac Charles).

The joke even in the original series was that the dog was far more intelligent than his nominal owner.  In the current version of the story, it's Mr. Peabody [IMDb], who after realizing that _no one_ was going to adopt him from the "puppy shelter" (because he was simply _way too smart_ for any human "owner") had "buried himself in books" eventually becoming "the first dog to get a PhD at Harvard" ;-), who actually _adopts Sherman_ who he finds one day "coming home from the lab" abandoned in a box (becoming, of course, "first dog to ever adopt a human..." ;-).

Now Sherman [IMDb], of course, being a little boy, DOESN'T KNOW that it's "not exactly the norm" that he'd be the adopted child of a dog (super-intelligent or otherwise).  So it comes to him as a shock when on his first day of school, Penny Peterson (voiced by Ariel Winter) a precocious little girl (ALSO arguably for the first time "outside the home" / "away from her parents" and on _her first day of school_) starts to make fun of him because "his father's a dog."  Some of Sherman's friends try to tell her "well, it's an adoptive relationship" but she insists that "it's not normal to have a 'dog' as a father."  Finally, Sherman [IMDb] gets mad and ... punches her ;-).

Well that lands him in the Principal's office (on his first day of school...) and Principal Purdy (voiced by Stephen Tobolowsky) brings in a social worker named Ms Grunion (vocied by Allison Janney) who tells Mr. Peabody [IMDb] that she's always been skeptical of this "dog adoption" and is going to take the matter to the Courts to revisit the question of whether he'd be a suitable parent for Sherman [IMDb].  (Now readers, what does this situation remind you of?  There's an obvious subtext here regarding the current question of adoption by gay potential parents...).

Now poor Mr. Peabody [IMDb], decides to invite Penny and her parents (voiced by Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) to his quite exquisite "condo in the city with a view" so that they could resolve their problems before the matter gets taken to the courts.

Penny's parents are yuppies -- lovely, rich, generally "nice" but ... clueless ;-).  So poor Mr. Peabody [IMDb] spends about 20 minutes in the film trying to persuade them that whatever their likes/dislikes were, that he could hold his own with them and "fit in."

One of the funniest sequences here was when Mr. Peabody [IMDb] discovers that Penny's parents "like music."  So we see him playing "a piano piece" by Chopin.  Then Penny's dad says that he actually prefers "heavy metal" more.  So we then see Mr. Peabody [IMDb] playing essentially "Purple Haze" by Jimmy Hendrix on an electrical guitar.  "No, no maybe flamenco ..." so Mr. Peabody [IMDb] pulls out an acoustic guitar and begins playing a "classical guitar" tune.  "No bongos" ... he's pulls out some bongos, "No Jazz ..." he pulls out a saxophone, and so one and so forth ;-)  Finally, at some point Penny's dad becomes convinced that Mr. Peabody [IMDb] is _one talented dog_ ;-) even though he's been playing with his blackberry/smartphone through most of Peabody's [IMDb] gymnastics ;-)

Mr. Peabody [IMDb] finally seems to "seal the deal" with Penny's parents after inviting them to his bar where he prepares for them "a cocktail concoction of his own design" that he calls "Einstein on the Beach" (which at least one of the reviewers I list at the top of my review noted is funny on a surprisingly impressive number of levels ;-)   Let me offer just one: Einstein besides referring to Albert Einstein who naturally would have been one of  Peabody's [IMDb] heroes, literally means "Ein Stein" or "one stone," where? "on the beach" ... ;-).  A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE ORIGINAL ANIMATED CARTOON SERIES WAS THE SHEER NUMBER OF PUNS (often real "groaners...") THAT MR. PEABODY "DROPS" DURING THE COURSE OF CONVERSATION.  Again, he's one _super intelligent_ dog ;-) ...  

But while Mr. Peabody [IMDb]'s busy impressing Penny's parents, Penny and Sherman are _also_ resolving things between themselves.  And during the course of this, Penny convinces Sherman [IMDb] to show her Mr. Peabody [IMDb]'s Time Machine (called the WABAC - pronounced "Way Back" - machine) which then makes up the rest of the story.  The main "schtick" of the original Mr. Peabody and Sherman [IMDb] television series was that Mr. Peabody [IMDb] had invented this time machine and would take Sherman [IMDb] on various trips back into time to help him with his homework, often to very amusing effect.

So the film takes viewers along with Penny, Sherman [IMDb] and eventually Mr. Peabody [IMDb] back to various places in time -- that of the French Revolution, Ancient Egypt and the Renaissance and much hilarity ensues. 

But the film is really about the question: What would an even super-intelligent, super-capable "dog" have to do to convince "regular people" to consider him "an equal," worthy of their time?  And yet, the question is posed in a very, very nice and very amusing way.  Good job folks!  Seriously good job ;-)

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