‘Mr. Peabody’ brings smarts to animated films

What has made animated movies of the past decade-plus so good is their ability to cater to children and adults at the same time. There are always layers of humor that kids won’t pick up on, but adults will appreciate.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” might have done that better than any animated film before it. The newly released cartoon flick provided laughs, references, inside jokes and fun twists on an educational journey through time to appeal to viewers of all ages.

The character Mr. Peabody started out as a sideshow during the old cartoon “Rocky and his Friends,” Rocky being of “Rocky and Bullwinkle” fame. But in a lot of ways, Mr. Peabody was the most intriguing character when he appeared.

Mr. Peabody is a dog who is the smartest being on the planet. He knows everything. He goes through a Sherlock Holmes process of calculating every step to get out of a jam. And his adopted son Sherman is pretty smart, too. But, weird as it sounds, a dog being in charge of a human is questionable at best. Between that and a fight Sherman has at school with another student, the two must host a dinner to prove they are suited to maintain their current living situation.

While Peabody entertains the parents of Penny Peterson, the girl who fought with Sherman, the two kids get into trouble when they use Peabody’s time machine after he specifically told them not to do so.

What entails is a journey of historical, comical proportions. Peabody must bring them back to the present as they explore the period of Egyptian Pharaohs, the Renaissance period and even Greek Mythology with the Trojan War.

Like their travel through time, the puns and tongue-in-cheek jokes are unpredictable, and they’re absolutely clever takes on historical fiction. Perhaps the cleverest one is a scene with Da Vinci as he paints the original Mona Lisa while she poses for him on a bench. What follows is a great take on the silly, yet brilliant technical achievement Da Vinci creates with her infamous smile. Later in the Renaissance, Sherman and Penny are flying on a wooden aircraft and happen to zip through the Sistine chapel, giving Michaelango inspiration unlike any he’d ever had.

The funniest scene, though, is when they visit the Trojan War and use the old horse trick on the very same Greeks who are using the old horse trick on the city of Troy. Very witty exchange of dialogue.

The animation of the film is crisp, colorful and contrasting when necessary. There’s fluid motion when they travel through time worm holes, like something out of the movie “Contact.” The voice acting is superb, especially Ty Burrell as Peabody, who delivers smart, calculated lines when describing the nuances of scientific occurrences he believes only he can truly grasp while, at the same time, being witty and cheesy with his punny joke-telling.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” might be one of the better animated films to hit theatres in years, and it may even be worth a second or third viewing as it is packed with multi-layered dialogue and humor.


Marvel gives inside look into cinematic universe

Marvel gave audiences a great look into the construction of the now-popular Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with a one-hour special Tuesday night in lieu of ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” show (as if SHIELD needed any more breaks).

At first, it seemed like nothing more than a best-of collection of interviews and clips from behind-the-scenes footage from the Marvel movie releases. There were new facts about how “Iron Man” was chosen as a starting point for the rest of the universe to follow (Did you know more than 30 writers passed on writing that script? Whoops). Mostly, though, the show’s first phase recapped how Marvel got to where it is today.

It was fun to walk down memory lane, though. The build-up to “The Avengers” was so hyped, and the movie was so ambitious, yet Marvel pulled it off with flying colors. Learning about these unknown heroes and watching them grow closer to each other and work together truly has been an adventure unlike anything we’ve seen, and there’s still plenty more to go.

That’s where the special got a little more interesting. “Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier” was teased quite heavily, with new footage and big reveals of storylines for those unfamiliar with the comics (Spoiler Alert: not all the characters that were thought to be killed in the first Captain America movie actually died). The movie is getting downplayed quite a bit; reviewers and analysts are lowering expectations of “Winter Soldier,” stating it won’t have quite the draw that Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Chris Hemsworth’s Thor get. But “Winter Soldier” will be an incredibly significant movie within the timeline of the rest of the movies. One of the most appealing, fun aspects of the MCU is the connectivity. The new Captain America movie will have plenty of that.

“Winter Soldier” will be somewhat different than the rest of the saga. Sure, it’ll have new characters introduced (such as Cap’s friend Falcon). But this movie will be more of a political thriller with plenty of moral dilemmas and character depth, especially psychologically.

The last segment of the special focused on “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the future installments of Marvel movies. “Guardians” will hark back to what Iron Man started and Avengers finished: it will take a cast of unknown superheroes and delve into their stories and assemble them to fight for the greater good. Not only that, but “Guardians” sets the stage for “Avengers 2: Age of Ultron,” which comes out in 2015.

Keep them coming.