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Movie review: 'Mr. Peabody & Sherman', it's about time

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman

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"It's about time" can describe the new animated film, Mr. Peabody & Sherman (opening today), in several different ways. First, well, it is about time...time-travel to be exact. It's also "about time" that these two beloved characters find themselves on the big-screen, having first appeared back in the 1960s on "The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show" in segments called "Peabody's Improbable History."

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It's also "about time" that an animated family film has felt so fresh, fun and wholly delightful. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is already the best animated film of the year, a distinction that it may find hard to shed at year's end even though 2014 is only just over two months old.

Mr. Peabody is a know-it-all, genius, who just so happens to be a dog. He has no discernible flaws. He lives with his adopted son, Sherman, a geeky little red-headed boy who looks up to his "dad." They have the ability to travel through time via Mr. Peabody's most impressive invention, the WABAC Machine (get it? "Way Back."). It is safest to travel through time to places prior to when you existed, if you care about not violating the very fabric of the space-time continuum.

When Sherman is picked on at school by the bratty Penny, he gets in trouble after retaliating. An old school marm, Ms. Grunion, threatens to take Sherman away from Peabody. To smooth things over, Mr. Peabody invites Penny and her snooty parents over for a cocktail, as a gesture of good will. But things go south quickly when Sherman shows Penny the WABAC.

Oh what adventures they have from there. With Mr. Peabody in tow trying to save the children, they float through history, visiting colonial France, the Renaissance, ancient Egypt and more. They meet characters like Leonardo Da Vinci, the actual Mona Lisa, soldiers of ancient Troy and Bill Clinton. Intrigued? You should be.

Early rumors had Robert Downey Jr. cast as the voice of Mr. Peabody, but it ultimately went to Ty Burrell, best known as the nerdy, pun-ny dad on ABC's Modern Family. So this is right in his sweet spot, playing a nerdy father-figure and I feel like Downey Jr. may have brought too much "coolness" to the role. A-List talent, like Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann, round out the cast of colorful and memorable characters.

This is a laugh-out-loud funny film that is also full of heart. There are several jokes that will fly right over the heads of children, but tons of hilarity meant for a child audience. This is the story about a boy and his dog, about a father and his son. The gravity of the story sneaks up on you towards the end. When I walked out of the theater, I really liked this film. Days later, I feel like I love it.

Now here's a franchise that doesn't feel forced, that takes beloved characters from our past and introduces them to a brand new audience in a way that pays homage to the originals. Talk about endless sequel potential. With the WABAC Machine - and with this caliber of 3D animation, writing and imagination - anything is possible.

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Run Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG

Starring (voices of): Ty Burrell, Max Charles, Lauri Fraser, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stephen Tobolowsky, Stanley Tucci, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, Mel Brooks

Written by Craig Wright (feature-film screen-writing debut)

Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little, The Haunted Mansion, Flypaper)

Opens locally on Friday, March 7, 2014 (check for show times).

Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 10:30 p.m. EST every Sunday, on MYTV20 in Detroit.

Subscribe above for email alerts of all movie reviews and news, and follow me on Twitter, @tomsantilli and at TomSantilli.com.

How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time
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