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Children’s animations outside the Disney and Pixar umbrella are as hit or miss as they come, and too often gorgeous animation is given to stories that didn’t necessarily deserve to be told. Rob Minkoff, director of The Lion King, makes his long-awaited return to animation with 20th Century Fox’s Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a film that could literally tell any story in the history of the world. The film’s first clip, seen above, doesn’t involve any time travel or historical figures, but it still conveys the complete lack of reality that these characters exist in. That’s one of the film’s strongest selling points to me, as animations occasionally focus so hard on being films that they forget where cartoons came from.
Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to bruise my knees by slapping them so hard after hearing these jokes, which are tepid at best, but I can accept that not everything has to be high-brow and dense. And the voicework is energetic and solid, particularly from Stephen Colbert, whose father Paul exhibits a vocal range, from angry bear to Scooby-Doo. The Ted Key creations for Jay Ward’s The Bullwinkle Show didn’t allow much room for Modern Family’s Ty Burrell to work with as the titular genius canine, but he still services the character well. Not too much going on with Leslie Mann’s mother character in the clip, via Fandango. And Sherman (Max Charles) is nowhere to be seen.
I hope there are lots of scenes like this, though, where throwaway gags about didgeridoos can sit alongside under-the-chair camera angles of characters in pain. I’m sure the central story about Sherman wanting his father to be proud of him will have more than its share of schmaltzy resonance, but it would be great if they surrounded that hook with random humor harking back to cartoons in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Someone needs to pull a mallet out of their back pocket here.
Beyond this central cast, Mr. Peabody & Sherman boasts a laundry list of co-stars and cameos, including Ariel Winter, Patrick Warburton, Allison Janney, Lake Bell, Stanley Tucci, Mel Brooks, Dennis Haysbert, and Stephen Tobolowsky. If you have the right machine, you might be able to zip forward to watch the film right now, but if not you’ll just have to wait until March 7 when it hits theaters. Take a listen to some of those stars in the trailer below.