It's a Wacky Ride Through History with the Smartest Dog Alive
|Peabody & Sherman" (2014).|
The interesting aspect of "Bullwinkle" is that it had several separate storylines going on, which made it somewhat confusing for a five-year-old to follow sometimes. This, however, created an entire universe of different characters beyond the main storyline of Rocky and Bullwinkle fighting off those dastardly but loveable spies, Boris and Natasha.
|A quick visit to King Tut's time doesn't go as planned.|
However, director Minkoff has been on a quest to make this film for a full decade, and one can only wonder if it was opportunism or, more likely, sheer love, of the material. He hooked Tiffany Ward, the daughter of Jay Ward, one of the series' creators (it pays to have the right parents in Hollywood), to serve as an executive producer to make sure the legacy was respected. The answer appears to be that Minkoff's motivations are pure and he is a huge fan of the original, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a great film.
|"My, what big eyes you have."|
|"And now for my rendition of 'Hound Dog.'"|
|Penny with her travelogue.|
|"King Tut (King Tut)/Now when he was a young man/He never thought he'd see/People stand in line to see the boy king."|
|The colors are dialed up on the extreme vivid side, as kids like them.|
|Sherman has a rough first day in school.|
|"Let's go fly a kite/Up to the highest height!"|
|The originals were drawn quite well for its time.|
|Yes, she supposedly said "Let them eat cake," we get it|
On the downside, "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" is disappointing in its reliance on the "greatest hits" sort of historical touchpoints that are endemic to these time-machine films. We don't see ordinary people from the past or ordinary times, just the King Tuts and King Agamemons and Abraham Lincolns that adorn the covers of history books and have been done to death in previous (and frankly better) time-travel films such as "Time Bandits." Sure, Marie Antoinette appears - next to a giant cake. Everybody from the past is kind to kids, everyone is portrayed precisely the way you would expect. It's that kind of film. You start to wonder why they didn't fit in the obligatory visit to the Titanic or maybe the dinosaur age as well. Well, there's always the direct-to-video sequel.
|Ty Burrell is a step up from the original voice of Mr. Peabody.|
|The two "Modern Family" stars at the Sydney Premiere.|
“I grew up with the characters and I love the show. 'Mr. Peabody' was such a rich character, but he was unexplored. There was a lot they couldn’t get to in a four and half minute short. It seemed like there was a bigger idea there.”You can't blame a talented man for trying. However, after reading about his trials and tribulations in getting this film made, with all the revisions and compromises and everything else, you realize how it could all go wrong. And there was always Tiffany to please, in this case about putting a new spin on Mr. Peabody's voice:
“Tiffany is sort of the gatekeeper and she was not convinced. She wanted to get a soundalike, which I did not want to do. To me, there was an opportunity in casting a new voice to modernize the character. I convinced Tiffany that Ty was going to get there and he started watching the show to nail the cadence. He got the underlying connection and he made it his own.”When you are fighting with your executive producer over something as basic as the sound of the main character's voice, that's not a good sign. When a director says things after the fact like that, it is not accidental, he is making a tacit point and hoping people get it. For what it's worth in this case, retaining the highly affected voice of Mr. Peabody from the original would have been a disaster, and Minkoff undoubtedly made the right choice. Fortunately, he won that battle. But that undoubtedly was just one struggle among many, and each one saps a little inspiration from a project. The frequent studio changes and having to please different sets of executives with their own agendas couldn't have helped, either.
|The artist, hard at work.|
“I had the great good fortune to have Chuck Jones as a mentor and one of my first questions to him was, who did they make Bugs Bunny for? They never made the shows for kids. They made them to amuse themselves. If they laughed, it meant other people might laugh too. There has to be a range of jokes. Some are more slapstick and physical. Others are more verbal and cerebral.”That's an awesome comment about the great Chuck Jones and how he created his classic comedy, and no doubt talking to Minkoff about animation would be like taking a graduate seminar. However, the statement also is sort of explanatory in a defensive way, as if he realizes what the problem is with the finished product "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" and is trying to explain that he knows what it should and could have been regardless of how it actually turned out. It may have been Minkoff's intent to make "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" for adults, but apparently, something went seriously wrong on the way to the French Revolution. A film for adults wouldn't take the crass shortcut of portraying Marie Antoinette eating a giant cake (there's a good amount of evidence that she never even said "Let them eat cake," that was anti-royalist propaganda), and having our heroic trio buzzing in at random on Leonardo da Vinci right as he is polishing off the one painting everybody in grade school knows about - the Mona Lisa - just smacks of dumbing things down for, well, kids. And that's terrific - in a film aimed at kids.
|All of the characters from the past are very kid-friendly.|