Animated adaptation ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ is a bumpy ride

Mr. Peabody & Sherman opens in theaters Friday.
Jeffrey M. Anderson

Three stars

Mr. Peabody & Sherman Voices of Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Allison Janney. Directed by Rob Minkoff. Rated PG. Opens Friday.

The brilliant time-traveling dog Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy Sherman first appeared in short bits on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show cartoon in the late 1950s. They were rendered in simple line drawings for quick and cheap television, but with sharp, clever, gag-based writing—with humor that ranged from subtle to silly—and a talented voice cast.

Now they have been stretched to feature length and updated with 3D computer animation. The prologue, a visit to Marie Antoinette, tips a hat to the original (including a delightful pun). Then the main story becomes a race to fix the space-time continuum, an attempt to prevent the evil Ms. Grunion (voiced by Allison Janney) from taking Sherman (Max Charles) away from Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell), and a reconciliation between Sherman and his blonde school bully, Penny (Ariel Winter).

Director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) embraces cool key elements from the show and wraps them up in bombastic, fast-paced filmmaking; it’s slick and noisy, but fleet-footed and funny. The real conundrum is the range of jokes, which start at snappy and funny—Patrick Warburton voices a hilarious Agamemnon—but veer toward the weirdly, marginally offensive. In the end, Mr. Peabody & Sherman mostly barks, and occasionally bites.

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