The latest animation from Dreamworks is based on characters from the 1960’s ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’, and focuses on the father and adopted son relationship of Mr Peabody (Ty Burrell), who happens to be a preternaturally intelligent canine that can talk, is a fully functional member of society and has invented, secretly, time travel, and his young human son Sherman (Max Charles) that he finds abandoned in an alleyway one day and who bizarrely has an IQ much closer to that of the average dog than any well adjusted member of mankind. This is the fundamental problem with the film – although the animation is fine, the protagonist is just too stupid, and his idiocy continues to set up most of the drama in the story as we see him bullied by a girl at school, who then bullies him into taking her on a jaunt through time and space.
It’s not without moral backbone, however, as Peabody attempts to rectify his son’s trouble at school by inviting the young demon and her parents over for dinner, delivering two surprisingly deep philosophical quotes to try and sell the idea to Sherman about the strongest relationships evolving through conflict and issues of self-reflection in hatred. As the narrative continues the father will have to learn to have more faith in his son and give him a bit more freedom, just as Sherman will come to see that the rules he has handed down to him have his own welfare at their heart, and the girl, Penny (Ariel Winter), will need to be rescued several times over and eventually stop being such a pain. A couple of nice jokes for adults, and perhaps a fun spattering of history for youngsters, including ancient Egypt, da Vinci and the Renaissance, the French Revolution and the siege of Troy, almost like ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (89) for a younger demographic (although the time machine here is remarkably similar to the one in ‘Free Birds’ for some reason), it will probably be entertaining enough for kids but I do question whether Sherman is simply so dim and irresponsible that he sets a bad example rather than functioning as the intended parabolic vehicle.