Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.
Our content advisories (1-10): Violence 3; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 0.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sisterhas something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
This delightful tale, directed by Rob Minkoff, is based on a series of short sketches that were part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show back in the Sixties. They included a lot of time traveling so that the genius dog could help his adopted son with his homework. This certainly is brought into this feature-length film, scripted by Craig Wright.
There is a recap of their history in which we see Peabody at the puppy shelter as a stray that no one wanted to adopt because he was always reading Plato or some other book. He saw no sense in running after and fetching a stick because he knew that the human would just throw it again and expect him to go after it. Thus Peabody set out on his own, becoming the first dog to graduate from Harvard (he was “valedogtorian”). He became a mathematician, inventor, master chef, a multi-instrument musician, inventor of a time-travel machine called the WABAC (pronounced way back). Because of his brilliance and acceptance into society, he received from the court the right to become the adoptive father of an orphaned baby boy dropped on his doorstep.
You can imagine that the raising of Sherman was an unusual affair, thanks to Mr. Peabody’s frequent use of his WABAC: there are scenes of his teaching the boy to swim in the Nile River, and floating by them is the baby Moses: also of meeting Gandhi. On his day at school Sherman amazes his teacher and irritates the precocious student Penny. When the latter teases and starts a fight with him, he bites her, which brings him to the principal’s office and to the attention of the pugnacious social worker Ms. Grunion who does not believe that a dog should be able to adopt a child.
Peabody invites Penny and her parents over to his penthouse in the hope of impressing them so that they will reconcile and drop charges before Ms. Grunion arrives for her inspection. This sets off Sherman and Penny into a wild and hilarious romp through history—ancient Egypt, the Troy, and Renaissance Italy, and briefly to the future—when he shows his guest the time machine. Before the wild evening is over, the space-time warp is so disrupted that the existence of the world is in jeopardy.
The animation is superb, with the buildings, landscapes, and contraptions (the latter especially in the da Vinci section, where we learn how the famous Mona Lisa smile came about) rendered so colorfully. I especially loved the aerial views of Florence when the children were accidentally trying out da Vinci’s flying machine! The voice cast, including numerous major stars as well as seasoned voice talents, is also superb. Lovers of puns and history (very skewered of course) will enjoy this concoction that nevertheless teaches the importance of reconciliation and the transformation from hostility to friendship.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be included in the May issue of Visual Parables. Subscribers who want to use the questions before publication at the end of thee month can contact Ed McNulty for them.