Doggone good

Doggone good

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN (G)

97 minutes/Opens on Thursday/***

The story: Mr Peabody (voiced by Modern Family's Ty Burrell), a highly intelligent dog, has a secret time machine, which he often uses to teach his adopted human son Sherman (Max Charles) about history.

One day, Sherman tells his classmate Penny (Ariel Winter) about the machine, who uses it and gets lost in Ancient Egypt.

It is up to Mr Peabody and Sherman to bring her back to the contemporary world.

Even though this is a cartoon, it may take a while for some to get used to the fact that, yes, Mr Peabody is a dog and he adopts a human boy as his son.

That is, if older viewers did not already recognise the characters from Peabody's Improbable History, the animated shorts featured in the 1960s television series The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show.

Bizarre as it seems, the two make a convincingly sweet father-son pair who are eager to prove to everyone else that their relationship is as normal as that in any other family.

By the time the credits roll, every kid watching this will wish he had a dog - or maybe wish he were in a dog's household.

Burrell, who won an Emmy for the sitcom Modern Family, displays perfect comic inflection as Mr Peabody, a beagle so smart that he is credited as the inventor of everything from a secret time machine to the fist bump and Zumba dance moves.

Ten-year-old Charles, who has starred in TV comedy The Neighbors (2012), voices Sherman with the right blend of enthusiasm and child-like innocence.

The characterisation of everyone else, however, is grossly underdeveloped.

Between childish fart gags and references to the Oedipus complex and Bill Clinton's sex scandal, it is also unclear whom the film is targeted at.

Still, the film's speedy pacing should be enough to distract the audience from the uneven script. Young viewers, especially, will lap up the frenetic energy and perhaps even learn some history along the way.


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