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Mr. Peabody & Sherman is the big-screen reboot of the “Peabody’s Improbable History” shorts included as part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle animated shows of the 1950s and ’60s. Keeping with the same origin story, Mr. Peabody is a beagle who happens to be the smartest being alive. A business magnate, inventor, scientist, Nobel Laureate, gourmand and Olympic athlete, Peabody can accomplish virtually any task – including a landmark court case that allowed him (a dog) to adopt his son Sherman (a human boy).  The happy pair fill their days using Peabody’s WABAC time machine in order to go on fun adventures throughout history – a seemingly ideal life for a young boy to grow up in.

However, when Sherman starts school he quickly finds that his unique (but awesome) life makes him a target for bullying and social ridicule. One girl in particular, Penny, pushes Sherman so far that he lashes out in a way that forces the school and child services to intervene. Facing serious challenge to his claims as an adoptive parent, Peabody decides to invite Penny, her parents and militant social worker Ms. Grunion over for a fine cuisine dinner – in order to cool hot tempers. But when Penny’s instigation leads to her and Sherman taking the WABAC for an ill-fated joy ride, Mr. Peabody winds up in a fiasco that could threaten the entire space-time continuum.

Director Rob Minkoff has a list of hit animated works under his belt (The Lion KingRoger Rabbit shorts like “Tummy Trouble” and “Roller Coaster Rabbit”) – but his more recent work with live-action has been less impressive (The Forbidden KingdomThe Haunted Mansion). Returning to animation for the first time in years, Minkoff transforms the thin material of the Peabody shorts into a legitimate animated feature about family bonds and growing up, with historical trivia thrown in for good measure. While that is a feat in and of itself, ultimately the film doesn’t measure up to the level of Dreamworks Animation’s best works (new classics like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon); instead, Peabody & Sherman falls somewhere alongside the studio’s earnest but otherwise average second-tier features (like Kung Fu Panda 2). 

Visually speaking, Peabody & Sherman is solid with a lot of impressive flourishes to touch it up. The animation style is comparable to Pixar’s The Incredibles  - but that close resemblance is not exactly a compliment, since the character models for Peabody & Sherman are coming to the screen a decade after Mr. Incredible and his family. That’s all to say: while sufficient, Peabody & Sherman‘s animation style and character models aren’t exactly stunning.