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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

November 7th, 2014

Mr. Peabody & Sherman - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Another late review, but there are special circumstances here. Fox has gone with a digital delivery system for their screeners, which means I have to stream the movie or TV show. Here's the problem with that. At any given time, I'm working on two or three projects for work and Firefox tends to quickly suck up a lot of resources, which cause me to restart the browser rather frequently to free up the RAM. (It's not uncommon for Firefox to be using more than 2 gigs of RAM at a time.) This is fine when all I'm doing is reading box office data or cast lists. But it makes it nearly impossible to stream something. Oh if only I had a separate machine I could use to watch movies. ... Oh that's right, it's called a Blu-ray player and I have one right under my computer desk. Anyhow, so after trying and failing to get the streaming to work, I just decided to buy a few of the screeners for movies and TV shows that I previously signed up to receive a physical copy. Of course, I only did this for films and TV shows I thought were going to be good, because it's my money. The first to arrive was Mr. Peabody & Sherman. I loved the original cartoons, but was the adaptation into a feature-length movie a success? Or do these characters work better in a five-minute format?

The Movie

The film begins with an extended prologue, first with Mr. Peabody telling us about his childhood... puppyhood? We then meet Sherman, his adopted boy. They then use the WABAC to travel to France, just before the French Revolution.

After getting mixed up with the Revolution and escaping in a daring fashion, they return to present day, where it is Sherman's first day of school. Mr. Peabody offers Sherman some terrible spelling advice. (I think we've all heard the saying, "I before E, except after C.", but there are more exceptions to that rule than there are words that conform to that rule.) It is clear that Mr. Peabody is having a harder time with Sherman going to school than Sherman does. Once at school, Sherman quickly amazes the other kids with his knowledge. Maybe amaze isn't the right word. One girl, Penny Peterson, takes an instant dislike to him, after he corrects her on a bit of George Washington trivia. He comes across as a little eccentric and it doesn't help that he casually mentions time travel. Penny bullies Sherman during lunch, calling him a dog, because his father is a dog. Sherman reacts to this by biting Penny.

Because of this incident, Mr. Peabody is called in by the principal. Unfortunately, it is worse than a little punishment. Ms. Grunion from Child Protective Services arrives. She claims to be interested in Sherman's well-being, but it is clear from the start that she doesn't think Mr. Peabody should have the right to raise a human boy and she will do what it takes to take him away. She's planning on coming over the next day to see if their home is fit for a child and if not, she will take Sherman away. Mr. Peabody comes up with a solution, host a dinner for the Petersons. If he can charm them, perhaps they can help persuade Ms. Grunion. Patty is easily won over by Mr. Peabody's charm, but Paul is a tougher sell. However, the only one less happy Penny is there than Sherman is Penny herself.

While Sherman tries to play nice with Penny, Penny demands to know how Sherman know so much about history. So, Sherman does the one thing Mr. Peabody told him not to. He tells Penny about the WABAC. Not only does he tell her about it, he uses it without Mr. Peabody's permission and after visiting ancient Egypt she decides to stay and get married to King Tut. That's when Sherman returns to the present to get Mr. Peabody's help. However, rescuing Penny and returning to the future turns out to be a lot more complicated than they anticipated.

Making Mr. Peabody & Sherman was a bit of a risking move. The filmmakers had to take a cartoon that was originally a series of 4-minute shorts that were mainly there to use famous people of dubious historical accuracy (One of the shorts included as a special feature includes Robin Hood.) to tell a few jokes that would culminate in a really bad pun. Taking five minutes of material and stretching it into a 90-minute movie doesn't always work. Just ask the folks over on SNL about that. Since there were no characters arcs or emotional development in these shorts, the filmmakers had to add that emotional connection / story arc to the movie. I'm sure there were many options, but they did so by telling a father / son story, as well as the young romance angle. So do these additions work? Yes, for the most part. Granted, there's nothing really new or inventive about how these plots are including in the movie. That said, Mr. Peabody and Sherman do have a nice fatherly-son bond. Penny is certainly a fun character added into the mix. She starts out as a mean girl and an antagonist, but quickly becomes a member of the team. There is also plenty of action and comedy. And yes, there are lots of puns. I actually read a few reviews when it first came out where people complained about the puns. Had they never seen the original shorts? The other main complaint was the convoluted storyline, but that comes with being a time travel story. As long as you are willing to go with cartoon level logic in the time travel elements, then I think the convoluted nature of the time travel becomes an asset, not a problem.

The Extras

The extras begin with Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. You can either watch the entire first episode, or you can watch 26 minutes of just the Mr. Peabody and Sherman segments. A Tour of the WABAC Machine is a three-minute clip looking the WABAC and all of the features. Time Travel: Mad Science is a six-minute look at the real science of time travel. Up next is a 22-minute making of featurette hosted by Patrick Warburton. History's Greatest Mystery: A Dog and His Boy is a three-minute look at Mr. Peabody and Sherman and how the pair of them, and Penny, appear in art from across thousands of years. Peabody's Pawprint on History is a four-minute look at Mr. Peabody's Chinese Theatre handprint ceremony. Finally, there are two games: A jigsaw puzzle and a memory game. Of these extras, only the two on time travel and the WABAC are included on the DVD, so that's a lot of Blu-ray exclusives.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman isn't the most detailed digitally animated movie made, which makes sense given its source material, so don't expect the best looking video. That's not to say it is bad. In fact, I couldn't find any faults in the details of the colors, while there are no compression issues or digital artifacts that I noticed. The 7.1 surround sound audio track is even better with clear dialogue and plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers. This includes directional and dynamic effects, while the score adds to the overall experience.

The Blu-ray cost just $19, which is $4 or 26% more than the DVD. That's a great deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

I was worried that Mr. Peabody & Sherman would be a lazy adaptation, but I was pleasantly surprised by the final film. There's a great mix of humor, action, and emotions, plus it treated the source material with the respect it deserves. That is to say there are a lot of bad puns. The extras on the DVD are weak, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Ty Burrell, Stephen Colbert, Allison Janney, Leslie Mann, Patrick Warburton, Ariel Winter, Max Charles