Rocky & Bullwinkle may have failed their theatrical adaptation, but not this duo
Dreamworks didn’t have faith in the educational intelligence of Mr. Peabody & Sherman. Light historical context for the younger crowd is softened by bathroom humor, as if kids might catch on that this Rocky & Bullwinkle spin-off may, in fact, be causing them to learn. Oh the horror.
The studio’s adaptation is otherwise fine – precise in translating the source and bright in making it lean and contemporary. Peabody, with the sharpened, recognizable voice of Ty Burrell, is charismatic and infinitely charming. It’s more than a nerdy know-it-all character, but his adopted son Sherman only seems to have symptoms of personality.
Therein lies the harness for multiple arcs in this feisty time travelogue where kids can be sucked in by bunches of prolific action while the over arching script finds time to embellish some complex adoption scenarios. Peabody stands in for those outcast in adoptive circles, while slyly working in a dominating social worker whose only purpose is to enact her own policies sans objectivity.
Via the WABAC, their spherical time machine, Peabody and his son blast through adventures whether intended or inadvertent. Sherman is certainly an inquisitive child, yet also one learning social structure and levels of obedience. Complications come with having a dog as a father, another beautifully done allegory if a bit too heavy. All of it is coated in rounds of maximized color and wayward trips through logistics which come with any piece of time travel. Here it’s all too simple to care.
By the third act, much has been whisked away for the sake of wildly hammy voice performances, including Patrick Warburton who can do no wrong as a Greek soldier. A worm hole cataclysm nearly strikes the modern day city, bringing about a breeding ground for scientific babble and misplaced historical figures, but more importantly a narrative center for the father/son pair to reconcile. It’s cleverly done with fantastic pacing and enormous energy.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman may end up in dust bins amongst the glut of current animated features. Chances are these two are done theatrically given their domestic box office tanked Dreamworks’ stock temporarily. It’s a shame because even though this piece feels particularly familiar, an identity slowly forms around Peabody which brushes away the curse of cartoon re-imaginings which slaughtered the likes of The Smurfs and even the core Rocky & Bullwinkle franchise. There’s good here for kids and complexities for adults. Target nailed.
Oh look, an animated feature which appears downright perfect on Blu-ray. Strike up the band. While Mr. Peabody & Sherman fails to have the sheer heft of some other recent technical marvels (see: Rio 2), sharpness and color are undoubtedly premium work. Peabody’s fur is meticulous and in close-up, each piece of rubbery-esque texture on his nose is evident. Human characters show off facial detail even with distance, and clothing is sublime. Every stitch has been completed, becoming visible in jaw dropping fidelity.
You’ll find no flubs in black level or contrast. As the WABAC dips into the strands of time travel, screens will explode with bountiful layers of sizzling blue trails and perfect black backgrounds. Depth is a marvel. As with most animation, this Dreamworks piece is cranked to full saturation, putting primaries on blast and executing them to perfection.
Despite the visually apparent simplicity of the animation (it’s certain to be more complex than it looks), there are some potential trouble spots to avoid. Aliasing is shrugged off in the city as cameras pan across the Peabody home. Some historical shots could have been hit with some stair stepping too, but work around any problems. This becomes a disc which pours on resolution to avoid complications. So be it.
Plus, there exists the admittedly gimmicky if stupendous 3D presentation which bowls viewers over with ridiculous levels of screen poking objects. Peabody breaks the front plane so often, it may well be a record setter for a major budget theatrical offering. Hands, swords, noses; they’re all used to protrude toward the audience.
And elsewhere, the disc won’t let up. Foreground and background are substantial in separation. Images feel exceptionally layered. Perspective is frequently employed by the virtual camera work to aid in keeping things stereoscopically manicured. As a downside, this design becomes prone to cross talk, especially during the final third when night falls on the city. Buildings and people separate too frequently, making it a problem even on those sets less prone to the issue.
Roaring to life with DTS-HD 7.1, this wide soundfield creates a crisp presence to capture the best of these action scenes. Traveling through time, the hum effect of the WABAC and general sci-fi-ishness of the realm is catapulted between channels. High-end designs breathe life into a sewer chase with a flood behind (and under) the starring duo, and add space to a breezy flying scene. Stereos lack total presence, but have their moments. A comedy bit with Da Vinci and a failed robot experiment is great.
Lacking here is full LFE thrust, although there are segmented moments where the subwoofer offers bite. Explosions and objects crashing are great, plus some time travel stuff elicits a small hum to add weight. It’s fun, but feels restrictive.
A CG Rocky & Bullwinkle short is the key extra, held back from the theatrical run and finally presented here – and in 3D where possible. It runs a little over nine minutes.
On the 2D disc, there are six original shorts from both Bullwinkle and Peabody spin-offs. The longest bonus is hosted by Patrick Warburton as he details the production of this film and history of the characters in A Journey WABAC for 22 minutes.
A few shorts only run a few minutes each, although a piece on actual time travel with physicists is worth a look. The others – a tour of the WABAC, a historical look at the Peabody/Sherman designs, and a ceremony presentation – are generally filler. Two games for the kids are likely way too slow to load for most, and when they’re live, not all that interesting either.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.