Editor's Note: To review the latest animated film marketed at families, I called in the resident experts again—four kids who like to watch and talk about movies. What follows is their take, with some notes from their parents.
Mr. Peabody is a dog unlike any other dog. He's an inventor and a genius. He has an adopted human son, Sherman, whom he found abandoned as a baby in a box.
Mr. Peabody went before a judge to adopt Sherman because he wanted to give him the home that he never had as a puppy. Though he is a dog, Mr. Peabody is a caring and very protective father who leads the two of them on many adventures in the time machine—the WABAC—learning history first-hand.
Sherman is a smart, friendly seven year old living with Mr. Peabody in a penthouse over Central Park. The story begins on Sherman's first day of school. He fights at lunch with a bold, bratty, and blonde girl named Penny because she calls him a dog. She was insulting both him and Mr. Peabody with this remark.
After the fight that ends in bite, the school's social worker, Ms. Grunion, threatens to take Sherman away from Mr. Peabody. He's a dog—he couldn't possibly be a good father to a human.
Mr. Peabody invites Penny, her parents, and Ms. Grunion the social worker to dinner to take care of the problem. During the evening, Mr. Peabody tells Sherman to get along with Penny and not to show her the WABAC. Penny manipulates Sherman into disobeying his father and he takes her to Ancient Egypt in the WABAC.
Sherman quickly realizes he needs Mr. Peabody's help, so he returns to present day to get his father. They end up going back to rescue Penny, only to set off a on a series of adventures through time. All the while, Mr. Peabody tries to get back to present day before Penny's parents figure out what's going on and Ms. Grunion arrives for dinner. The action peaks when Penny's parents learn what's happening and Ms. Grunion tries to take Sherman away.
The movie is creative, funny, and entertaining. The historical characters were hilarious. They travel to the French Revolution, ancient Egypt, the Trojan War, and the Italian Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci, King Tut, Marie Antoinette and the Trojan soldiers were quirky, silly, and fun to watch.
The film's plot was imaginative and surprising at times. Mr. Peabody was full of unexpected ideas, and acts unpredictably when faced with losing Sherman. The historical scenes were exciting and even a bit educational.
There were very few things we didn't like about this movie. It was hard to watch Penny as she bullied Sherman and disrespected Mr. Peabody. However, she changed and eventually becomes a good friend to Sherman. The storyline was a bit predictable at some points, but overall still very entertaining.
Through the movie, Sherman learns to trust, listen to, and obey his father. Mr. Peabody learns to believe in Sherman and give him more responsibility. Penny changes the most. She becomes gentle and caring as she and Sherman work together. The movie teaches lessons not to judge by looks, as Mr. Peabody is judged as an unfit parent because he is a dog. The characters come to know that Mr. Peabody should be judged on his actions and character, not his outward appearance.
We are telling our friends this is definitely a movie worth seeing in the theater!
Caveat Spectator: Parents' Summary
Mr. Peabody and Sherman is sweet, funny, and enjoyable. There are only a few things that parents might want to be aware of before seeing this movie.
It's noted in the movie that Tut rhymes with "butt." Jokes are made about the "booby" traps in Egypt. Penny is quite disrespectful and mean, but these are clearly not admirable qualities about her. There are a couple poop lines and heart underwear is seen in one scene. There were a couple jokes specifically for adults. For example, when Sherman returns to his own timeline, there are two Shermans at the same time. If the two Shermans from the two different times touch, it's a metaphysical problem. Mr. Peabody shouts to stop Sherman "before he touches himself." At this statement Ms. Grunion scribbles notes, obviously offended, into her notebook. In one of the last scenes Bill Clinton pops up and says that he's "done worse."
There is some violent content, such as off-screen beheadings during the French Revolution. A description with pictures shows how Penny will be disinterred and mummified. Her hand is nearly stabbed with a knife in her almost-wedding to King Tut. Other slapstick violence shows up through the movie; one character repeatedly tases himself (as in, with a Taser gun).
No doubt, some will suspect an alternate agenda with the adoption plot in this film. The question of Mr. Peabody's fitness as a parent is resolved by arguing for his parental love, which trumps all other factors, such as the fact that he is a dog. Some will surely be tempted to read agendas into plot lines such as these. None of our children really noticed the "dog adopts human boy" story as worth highlighting, despite the fact that some of our children were adopted. This to say, the story uses Sherman's adoption as plot device more than a political point, and it certainly did not distract us as viewers. Overall, we found the movie to be funny, clever and one that the whole family can enjoy.
Benjamin (12), Claudia (11), Olivia (10), and Luisa (7) Johnson live in New Jersey with their parents, Dru and Stephanie.