Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Home Video Critic
Looking to chase after Disney, Fox and Sony’s successes in leading animated motion pictures, Dreamworks SKG played its hand and dug into our collective pop culture consciousness (well, ours that remember far back enough), reviving a segment of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that showcased a genius dog and his young adoptive ward, resulting in a CGI marvel infused with mostly historically educational content, laughter and one-liners that are both terrible and incredibly addictive. Just like the olden days.
In the film, we get a quick glimpse of the history (no pun intended) of the relationship between Nobel laureate, Olympian polymath genius Peabody and his human son Sherman (it’s an adoptive relationship), who tend to utilize an invention called the WABAC Machine in order to visit important moments in history in order to impart Sherman with the importance of major moments in human affairs, both artistic, political and otherwise.
When Sherman heads off to his first day of school and clashes with headstrong preppy girl Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter), Sherman is forced to prove his historical claims by being goaded by his new pint-sized nemesis into using the WABAC and heading to various historical milestones, hoping to make it back to the present without disturbing the timeline too badly.
Yeah, right. Despite the genius level intellect of Mr Peabody’s caliber, the adventure is only beginning for the dynamic father/son duo, as they seek to rectify the space-time continuum and prevent the universe from imploding on itself.
Narratively speaking, this is a brilliantly elegant film, laced with good humor, harmless jokes and a whole lot of lush and valid historical details built into both the foreground and background of each scene/era the pair visits.
Credit Rob Minkoff, half of the creative team behind Disney’s The Lion King, for pooling all that was great about the brief animated skits interspersed as part of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle series, allowing viewers young and old to discover adventure and learning by way of great historical figures like Benjamin Franklin, Gandhi, Shakespeare and the like.
TV’s Modern Family actor Ty Burrell infuses the title role with charm, erudition and wit while a cast of great voice actors populate the history books, with talents like Stanley Tucci, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Lake Bell, Mel Brooks, Patrick Warburton and Thomas Lennon filling in the big roles.
The movie is as harmless as they come, with visual gags galore, incredibly elaborate set pieces, witty dialogue and wholesome positive values. With much cinematic pabulum force fed down kids’ gullets these days, it’s refreshing to see such a revered property used to its utmost potential.
It’s a pity the film’s original price tag of $145M made it such a difficult project to recover from, but it’s definitely worth a view or two with your loved ones. One of the more pleasant modern animated films I’ve seen of late.
4 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.