Unspectacular but entertaining, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is neither great nor bad.
It is anchored by quality voice actors, with Ty Burrell (Mr. Peabody) and Max Charles (Sherman) both giving life to their characters.
The film’s standout is Ariel Winter (Penny Peterson), however, who is so good that she harnesses emotion at multiple turns.
It helps that her character is also animated with the most nuance. Even when she’s bullying Sherman, Penny’s facial expressions ensure we understand she’s just trying to maintain social dominance, not to be malicious.
That is not to say the rest of Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s animation fails. It most certainly does not. This film is impressive to look at, especially when considering all of the historical inanimate objects it perfectly renders: Egyptian monuments, Marie Antoinette’s estate, the Mona Lisa and more.
Nothing is as impressive as Da Vinci’s plane.
For all of the animation and acting strength, however, this feature struggles to find an identity. Between Mr. Peabody’s puns, some of which are quite clever, his long-winded academic explanations, and the script’s frequent exposition, much of the content will escape younger audience’s understanding.
Yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s themes and plot line are predictably simplistic, so much so that they fail to enlighten adults.
Ditto that for the way Craig White’s screenplay develops most characters. The only complex individual here is Penny.
The rest, even Sherman and Mr. Peabody, have one note.
Then there is Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney), who is too stereotypically evil.
Were it not for Penny – the actor, animation and characterization – very little would hold older audience’s attention.
Yet, Mr. Peabody and Sherman is not bad, mostly because it is energetic and comedic enough to remain entertaining.