If you grew up on Malt-O Meal and Saturday morning cartoons, you might remember the
antics played out by anthropomorphic animals and crafty humans on the series Rocky and His Friends or The Bulwinkle Show.
That’s where Peabody, a bespectacled, talking beagle with an uncannily high IQ, and Sherman, his adopted human boy, began their careers. They have recently hit the big time and the big screen in a feature-length animated film “Peabody & Sherman.”
“Peabody & Sherman” tries too hard to be inclusive of both children and adults. Hoping to provide laughs for the kids and an inside track for the adults, the results fall short of the potential for a rollicking good time. Even the clever 3D distractions don’t do enough to dispel the slow-moving parts.
With a plot dependent on time travel, what should have been a romp through the ages turns in to a stroll in the doldrums. Little kids won’t stand for the intricacies of the plot, and adults won’t care all that much about the historical references.
With appearances from George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Ben Franklin, King Tut, Robespierre, Agamemnon, and others, much of the action flows episodically in choppy sequences. Peabody (voice of Ty Burrell) and Sherman (voice of Max Charles) travel through history in an attempt to save Sherman’s renegade friend Penny (voice of Ariel Winter) from a disaster in the ancient past.
Their involvement begins when Sherman corrects Penny’s response to a question about George Washington. George did not, Sherman asserts, chop down the cherry tree. He knows because he visited with George Washington about it. Penny’s so outraged and embarrassed that she begins bullying Sherman, provoking him until he actually bites her.
Enter Ms. Grunion (voice of Allison Janney), who acts on behalf of Child Welfare Services to investigate the case. She determines that Mr. Peabody might be an unfit parent, especially since he’s a dog.
Mr. Peabody uses his intellect to sweet-talk Penny’s parents, offering them a delicious meal and exotic drinks. It’s about that time that Penny talks Sherman into showing her the time machine and their adventures across time begin.
I hate to be a curmudgeon, but “Peabody & Sherman” left me wishing for more Bulwinkle and less bull.
Rated PG for some mild action and brief rude humor.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.