Review – Every Dog Should Have a Boy (“Mr. Peabody and Sherman”)

If you’re a baby boomer, you’ll no doubt remember the classic “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon shows of the 1960’s, and with them the mini-shows “Fractured Fairy Tales” and “Peabody’s Improbable History“. These gems were all produced by the genius mind of Jay Ward.


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Lovingly homaging this cartoon, which was aimed at adults with its crafty stories and terribly funny puns, DreamWorks animation updates the characters to the 21st Century and we have a CGI talking dog Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles.) Peabody, although a talking dog, has an IQ that’s off the charts and, aside from inventing the fist-bump and Zumba, has also invented the WABAC (pronounced “WayBack”), a space-ship orb time machine. With this device he and his son explore the past to visit George Washington, Ghandi, Leonardo DaVinci, and others.

Peabody and Sherman are first shown getting in and out of a jam with the French Revolution and, after a very nice flashback montage about Sherman’s origins (using John Lennon’s haunting “Beautiful Boy” song; unexpected and wonderful), we get a glimpse into their relationship as father and son. Something that the adoption court accepted… and why not? Peabody’s got a gigantic penthouse that would rival Stark Industries in the heart of the city and is master at anything he tries. But, at trying to be a canine dad to his human son, that’s where he struggles.

Things heat up on Sherman’s first day of school when the orange-haired bespectacled boy is harassed by a blonde hellion named Penny (Ariel Winter) who calls him a dog and humiliates him to the point where Sherman hauls off and bites her! Fearing that the children’s services agent, Miss Grunion (Allison Janney), will take Sherman away from him, Peabody invites Penny and her parents over for a get-to-know-you dinner. Not a good move! In a desperate act to win her over, Sherman shows nasty Penny the WABAC and that’s where the fun (okay, make that trouble!) begins.

Sherman and Peabody must rescue Penny in the past when she gets engaged to a kid-sized King Tut (Zach Callison). After that, they ping-pong in time to Italy and daVinci (a hysterical Stanley Tucci), to ancient Troy and a crazed Agamemnon (Patrick Warburton–always perfect) and his men hidden inside the famous Trojan Horse, and more. It’s a fast-paced romp with a bouncing time machine occasionally getting them in and out of trouble. Soon Penny and Sherman become BFF’s as they come to an understanding as does Sherman and his “dad”, who has trouble saying “I love you” to his son. The ending, complete with a nice space/time-paradox issue, has all the prior historical characters coming back for a final brawl and a very nice final touch that, if you were a fan of the TV series, you’ll recognize instantly. Hint: he has a broom!

The old TV series had only 5 or so minutes to tell a complete story and the animation was crude and simple. Like this:


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But, like the movie, the writing was the reason you watched it. It was funny! Just like the recent “The Lego Movie”, it proves you CAN write a movie that not only caters to the kids in the audience, but the adults as well. Loaded with puns galore (after visiting Egypt, Peabody says, “Looks like I’m just an old Giza”–read “geezer”), and a lightning fast script written by Craig Wright, this saucy little cupcake is directed by Rob Minkoff, who also directed Disney’s “The Lion King“. Two things bugged me: the outrageous use of body parts. Some humans were drawn like relatively normal people, while others (Sherman and Penny for example) are exaggerated with huge heads, tiny limbs, and gigantic glasses. Kinda creepy. The other thing was the plot that relied solely on Peabody and Sherman getting into one mess after another, just to solve a problem and then repeat that scenario all over again. And again. And again. Geez, Louise! How many times can you get into a predicament!

Other than that, the storyline and cartoony action is wonderful for the kiddies (and adults), even going so far as giving a genuine history lesson within the whirlwind of the madcap adventures going on. Not a bad idea.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

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As silly as it sounded, this movie actually worked on many levels. The nutty script, penned by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, had two out-to lunch metal-heads named Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and his BFF, Ted Theodore Logan (Keanu “whoa” Reeves) who are struggling to make their band, Wyld Stallyns, the next big thing.

Trouble is, they’re idiots. As high school students in San Dimas, California, if they don’t pass their upcoming history presentation, they’ll fail and Ted’s police captain father will ship Ted off to military camp. . .in Alaska! Luckily, a time-traveler named Rufus (George Carlin–perfectly cast) arrives in a phone booth time machine with news that they, Bill and Ted, are regarded in the year 2688 as revered intellects, thanks to their music and wisdom! Who knew? To prove their greatness and to save Ted from dire consequences, Rufus lends them his phone booth and B &T are off on an excellent adventure through time to meet and greet some of the great figures in history. And while there at it, why not kidnap them for their history assignment at school?

They first grab Napoleon Bonaparte (Terry Camilleri) who, not speaking any English, goes crazy in 1998 at a local water park (Raging Waters in San Dimas) and develops a serious jones for ice cream. They next grab Billy the Kid (Dan Shor), Socrates (Tony Steedman), Joan of Arc (Jane Weidlin), Beethoven, (Clifford David), Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron), and Genghis Khan (Al Leoung). Having never experienced the 20th Century, their experiences at a local shopping mall are, needless to say, the highlight of the film. Seeing Billy the Kid and Socrates try and pick up girls while Joan of Arc leads a Jazzercize program is great!

Meanwhile, Bill and Ted, using the time-travel element as a source to manipulate their plans, carefully make their way to the high school auditorium and present their ultimate historical show to the school utilizing their new friends, which naturally gets them the passing grade. Afterwards, after all the historical figures are returned, Rufus comes back with a gift for the boys: two princesses from the future who will be part of their Wyld Stallyns band. In other words, stay tuned for the sequel!

Directed by Stephen Herek, it’s very silly but very funny and has the dubious distinction of pulling a hat trick by coming out with a sequel that actually bested the original. “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” (originally titled, “Bill and Ted Go To Hell”) came out in 1991 and was hysterical with the boys being killed off and playing board games for their souls by the Grim Reaper (William Sadler). A third sequel script was written, but was never greenlighted, even though all the principle cast members agreed to be in it.

This is the movie that essentially put Keanu on the map with his trademark lackadaisical acting and look. Just goofy enough to be fun and charming enough to be likable, B&TEA is just a fun movie all around. No fart jokes, no bad language, just clever writing and a damn good script for the whole family.

So popular is the B&T franchise, that it spawned a kids cartoon series, a 7-episode live action TV series, comic books, video games, and spoofs of their time-traveling antics with Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween scary nights. I’ve seen it. It’s a scream!! (no pun intended)

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