As someone who grew up loving “Peabody’s Improbable History”
on Jay Ward’s animated TV series Rocky
and His Friends and The Bullwinkle
Show, I approached this CGI feature with considerable trepidation. I’m
delighted to say that my fears were unfounded: this movie is a treat for diehard
Peabody fans and, I daresay, for newcomers as well.
Ty Burrell delivers a pitch-perfect vocal performance as the world’s smartest dog, who has to prove himself worthy of being an adoptive father to a wide-eyed human son named Sherman (nicely played by Max Charles). In the old five-minute TV cartoons, there was no attempt to explore the nuances of the characters’ unusual relationship. This being a feature, the fanciful nature of their life together is sprinkled with a dose of real-life drama. Somehow it all works.
Following the premise of the original series, Peabody and Sherman travel back in time (via the WABAC machine) to propitious moments in human history. From the French revolution to ancient Greece, our heroes find themselves face to face with everyone from Marie Antoinette to Leonardo da Vinci. The gags, both visual and verbal, flow at a steady pace, with some ingenious 3-D flourishes along the way.
Some kids may ask for an explanation of a complex problem that arises involving the time-space continuum, toward the climax, but I hope the movie’s overall sense of fun trumps any confusion. It’s the characters that matter most, and the film makes us care what’s going to happen to both Peabody and Sherman.
Director Rob Minkoff has spent the better part of a decade trying to get this movie made. It was well worth the wait.