March 7, 2014 at 6:23 AM ET
Finally a reboot of a beloved retro series that feels fresh and fun. Cartoon characters "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" got their start in the 1960s, but their new full-length movie doesn't feel one bit dated. DreamWorks has filled in more of a personal back-story for the dog-dad-and-human-son duo, and kept the wacky time-traveling Wayback Machine that let them mingle with Marie Antoinette, Leonardo DaVinci and other historical figures.
Parents may remember the intellectual dog and his gawky red-headed boy from the "Peabody's Improbable History" segments of "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show." But even if they don't, they'll likely get a kick out of the new big-screen 3-D film. Here's a parents' guide.
Will kids enjoy it?
Yes. Even Gen Z types who've never heard of the "Rocky & Bullwinkle" skits will be sucked into the charm of the brainy canine and his charmingly clueless son. The action is quick but not hyper, the characters are relatable, and there are a few fart jokes to keep the grade-schoolers giggling. Parents be warned: If this is your kid's first introduction to King Tut, they may come away from the film knowing only that his name rhymes with "butt."
What about their parents?
Parents should enjoy it too. The film's salted with jokes that are obviously intended only for them, including an "I'm Spartacus!" bit that's all the better for taking a while to pay off, and plenty of verbal puns. Sherman plays the stand-in for the kid audience, repeatedly laughing and then saying "I don't get it," after his dog dad delivers a zinger that requires historical knowledge he doesn't have. Kids won't always get it either, but the film zooms on quickly and they won't care.
What age level will appreciate the movie?
Should be fine for kindergartners and up unless they're very sensitive. "Mr Peabody & Sherman" is rated PG for "some mild action and rude humor." The action is mild as cream cheese — some sword-fighting and a few chase scenes — and the "rude humor" includes the aforementioned butt and fart jokes. The scariest scenes don't involve the battles, but the plot where a creepy social worker (voice of Allison Janney) threatens to take Sherman away from his doggie daddy. Smart parents could easily turn this into a learning opportunity, taking the car ride home to discuss adoption, families and other relevant issues. And older grade-schoolers might be intrigued enough by some of the historical segments to want to seek out the real story. The Trojan War, the painting of the Mona Lisa, King Tut and Egyptian mummies, the French Revolution, Gandhi, George Washington, and even Bill Clinton make appearances.
Should viewers seek out the 3-D?
It's not as dazzling as the stunning ice and snow flying at the audience in "Frozen," but overall, the added dimension is fun here. Swords jut out at the audience, rocks whiz around, and a fun sequence features Sherman swooping through the air on DaVinci's flying machine. If you don't mind the ticket surcharge, go for it, though if your local theater offers 2-D only, don't fret.
Got a bathroom break guide?
The film's a fast 90 minutes, so most kids can sit through it all. But if you need a plot-free moment to duck out, the Trojan War battle scenes are a good bet. (Yes, that's "Seinfeld's" Puddy — Patrick Warburton — as Agamemnon. Gotta support the team.)