Since it’s an unspoken rule that every animated classic must come with a kid-friendly lesson of love and acceptance, it can be pretty difficult to stand out from the crowd.
While “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is no exception, it makes the most of its premise by spinning its own unique father-son relationship tale.
Based on characters from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” the leads are a brilliant dog named Mr. Peabody – the self-proclaimed inventor of autotune, planking and Zumba – and his sweetly daffy human son, Sherman (“It’s an adoptive relationship”).
Together, Mr. Peabody and Sherman (voiced by Ty Burrell and Max Charles, respectively) travel through time in another of Peabody’s wonderful inventions, the WABAC Machine, meeting with famous historical figures from every time and place.
The 3D flick sort of works as a “Midnight in Paris” for the elementary school set, hitting easy historical targets and relying on well-known facts.
While it does its best to dispel a few historical inaccuracies along the way, “Peabody” is about educational as Disney’s “Hercules.” That’s not really a dig, either, as DreamWorks would be lucky to see “Peabody” rival that film’s success at the box office.
Besides, a good chunk of the crowd will giggle along with Sherman at Mr. Peabody’s historical puns (of which there are many), even though he admits “I don’t get it” each and every time.
After an “incident” at school with a competitive classmate, Penny (Ariel Winter, “Modern Family”), leads both her parents and the school to get involved, Peabody decides to put his skills to good use by hosting the world’s greatest dinner party.
But when the two frenemies get into a bit of trouble, everything that Peabody has so carefully built could come crumbling down.
And that’s how the film successfully manages to tell two compelling and funny yet completely different stories, because what makes “Peabody” even more unique is that it works as an obvious allegory for gay adoption.
While many of the film’s other characters, including Penny’s father (Stephen Colbert), are made uncomfortable by the arrangement, Peabody is proud to proclaim that he won the right to adopt Sherman in a court of law in spite of the world’s opinion (“Because if a boy can adopt a dog, why can’t a dog adopt a boy?”).
Yet for as proud as he is, he is afraid of expressing love for his adoptive son. And Sherman, just a little boy, is so fearful of being labeled as a dog by the other children that he lets his peers get in the way of the most important relationship of his life.
Still, this being a kids’ movie, the movie never comes across as overtly political, as it’s still just a heartwarming story of this dog and his boy.
Aside from an Oedipus reference and Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky gag, both of which will thankfully go over the little tykes’ heads, the movie rarely goes blue, but there’s still a good chance the under-10 set will enjoy the movie’s action more than the humor.
Of course, some references span every generation, and everyone should get a chuckle out of a terrific running gag involving Leonardo Da Vinci’s creepy robotic baby.
While it might not be the funniest animated movie of 2014, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” earns extra points for being without a doubt one of the most layered "kiddie flicks" in some time.