If you're of a certain age and can get past the fact that it's not in sketchy black and white, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is quite entertaining.
If you're a younger parent or a youngster, you may find the animated feature thoroughly entertaining.
"Mr. Peabody & Sherman" was originally a segment on producer Jay Ward's 1960's television cartoon series, "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show."
A key plot device in the TV show and movie is The WABAC Machine or Wayback Machine, a time-traveling gizmo that inserts Mr. Peabody and Sherman into historical events. In the TV show, this invariably concluded with a RBP (Really Bad Pun).
In the feature movie, Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is hosting a dinner party in his penthouse high atop New York City when Sherman (Max Charles), is goaded by the guest couple's daughter, Penny (Ariel Winter), and sends her back to ancient Egypt, 1332 B.C., where she's about to marry King Tut.
Peabody leaps into action and heads back to Egypt, and when the Wayback Machine needs a jump start, time-travels to Florence, Italy, 1518. Who better to help than inventor Leonardo da Vinci? There, we learn how da Vinci (Stanley Tucci) coaxed that enigmatic smile out of Mona Lisa (Lake Bell). Next stop: the Trojan War, 1184 B.C.
Director Rob Minkoff (co-director, "The Lion King," 1994, "Stuart Little," 1990) keeps the action moving at a steady, if predictable, pace. The screenplay is by Craig Wright (TV's "Brothers & Sisters," "Lost").
The storyline is akin to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." Historic figures, including Marie Antoinette, George Washington, Odysseus and, yes, Bill Clinton (he's a punchline).
The characters are designed like bobble-head dolls, with huge heads and spindly bodies. The eyes are large and porcelain-like, to great emotional effect. Sherman, however, looks too much like Jimmy Neutron from TV's "The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius."
The CGI is gorgeous. The detail in the historic segments is rich. The colors are vibrant. The 2D version was screened for this review. However, quite a few of the effects, including several chase sequences and especially the Wayback time-travel sequences are designed for maximum 3D impact.
Burrell does just enough of an homage in voicing Mr. Peabody without mimicking the voice of the original character. The voice characterizations are excellent, including those by Allison Janney, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton and Mel Brooks. The score by Danny Elfman is creatively sprightly.
The RBPs travel from the TV show to the movie, with several sprinkled throughout, to wit (pun intended, of course):
When an arm falls off of an Egyptian mummy, Mr. Peabody observes, "That's disarming."
Mocking his geezer status, Peabody quips, "Same old Giza."
And he admonishes, "Remember, if at first you don't succeed, Troy, Troy, Troy."
There's even a Tastykake product placement with Marie "Let them eat cake" Antoinette.
The movie concludes with a very silly "Spartacus" moment.
This is not your father's, or grandfather's "Mr. Peabody & Sherman," but it's fun nonetheless.
Preceding the feature is "Almost Home," a short based on "Home," an upcoming DreamWorks Animation feature.
"Mr. Peabody & Sherman," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for some mild action and brief rude humor; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Sci-Fi; Run time: One hr., 92 min.; Distributed by 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," written and sung by John Lennon, is heard during a scene in "Mr. Peabody & Sherman." At the very end of the credits, a black and white drawing of the Mr. Peabody and Sherman characters from "The Rocky and Bullwinkle" TV show is shown and then animated as the pair walks away. The film concludes with a color logo for Bullwinkle Studios.
Box Office, March 14: Movie-goers got into the Wayback Machine and zoomed "Peabody & Sherman" to No. 1 with $21.2 million and $63.1 million after two weeks, indicating film-goers didn't want to time-travel to "300: Rise of an Empire," which fell to No. 2, $19.1 million, $78.3 million, two weeks; with "Need For Speed" stalling at No. 3, with $17.8 million, opening;
4. "Non-Stop," $10.6 million, $68.8 million, three weeks; 5. "The Single Moms Club," $8.3 million, opening; 6. "The Lego Movie," $7.7 million, $236.9 million, six weeks; 7. "Son of God," $5.4 million, $50.8 million, three weeks; 8. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," $3.6 million, $4.7 million, two weeks; 9. "Frozen," $2.1 million, $396.3 million, 17 weeks; 10. "Veronica Mars," $2 million, opening.
Unreel, March 21:
"Muppets Most Wanted," PG: It's the Muppets' European vacation jewel-heist caper, with a bizarro Kermit the Frog as the bad guy. Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais and Ty Burrell join in the adventure comedy fun.
"Divergent," PG-13: The world is divided by virtues. Divergents don't fit in. Kate Winslet stars in the sci-fi action film.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes