It’s surprising how much history is packed into Mr Peabody & Sherman, the new animated film based on characters from the 1960s TV series The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show.
Animated features usually have some educational element, but this fast-paced time-travelling adventure is almost like watching a history lesson packaged in a fun way for kids.
The pun-filled tale of a dog and his son has added nostalgia for adults, although it’s a harder sell if you didn’t grow up with the series.
It’s initially odd to hear Ty Burrell’s voice without thinking of Modern Family, but you quickly settle into it and learn Mr Peabody is a Nobel-prize winning pooch, who attended Harvard and adopted Sherman after finding him abandoned as a baby.
The pace is whip-fast. Within minutes, you’re watching Mr Peabody take the now seven-year-old Sherman (voiced by Max Charles) on a new adventure in his time machine, called the WABAC (pronounced Wayback). Through this invention, he has given Sherman a headstart on learning, having taken him to meet George Washington, Leonardo da Vinci (voiced by Stanley Tucci) and now back to the time of the French Revolution, where a plump Marie Antoinette is shovelling cake down her hatch.
It’s easy to see how this was based on a TV series segment, because the movie itself is quite episodic. Sherman inevitably gets himself in trouble, Mr Peabody remains calm, figures out a scientific means of getting them out of danger, teaches the boy a thing or two in the process, and then it’s onto the next journey.
With the droll Mr Peabody around, it never feels as though there’s much danger.
One guillotine, sewer chase and fiery escape later, the film really begins.
When the overprotective Mr Peabody sends Sherman off to school, he fails to factor in bullies like Penny (Modern Family’s Ariel Winter). After a biting incident, there’s the possibility of losing Sherman forever, so Mr Peabody invites Penny and her parents to dinner. Of course, the children can’t resist messing with the WABAC.
The plot gets fairly confusing, but the splendid animation and visuals keep you distracted, particularly as the characters jet through time portals.
Mr Peabody & Sherman is a safe bet. It’s entertaining enough, heartfelt and certainly has a nice educational element. It just doesn’t have a lot of originality or bite.
* Mr Peabody & Sherman releases in Australian cinemas on March 20