We've seen a large chunk of the new CG animated Mr. Peabody & Sherman movie — and surprise, it's actually not terrible. Ever since this movie was announced, we've been giving off nervous "please don't ruin my childhood" noises.
Well, consider the fears squashed, because this movie has a dark little twist that infuses a whole lot of heart into these previously 2D characters. And Ty Burrell actually pulls off the voice of Peabody. We also saw tons of footage from the rest of Dreamworks 2013 slate, and we're also fairly excited about the promise of Nic Cage as a caveman. Here's our first impressions of Dreamworks' new movies. Spoilers ahead...
We were not expecting the sharp turn Mr. Peabody & Sherman took halfway into the clip reel, narrated by the director Rob Minkoff — but we're glad they're not afraid to tackle the strange situation of a dog who has adopted a human boy as his son.
More on that later, but for now let's just talk about the massive upgrades this 1950s cartoon underwent. First (as you can see above) Mr. Peabody and Sherman are now CG characters. This adds a whole heap of emotion. Instead of the cross-eyed Sherman you now see a toothy-smiled child with a great smile. He's all heart. Mr. Peabody (who doesn't emote too much until things start going wrong for him) looks older and wiser — but never impatient or condescending (something we were worried would happen in the new version). He loves Sherman.
Together they live in a completely amazing mid century vision of the futuristic apartment. They've got oodles of cash (thanks to Peabody enterprises) but remain the kind characters we remember from way back. And speaking of the WABAC machine, hot damn. The new WABAC still has the nobs and red gadgets bobbing about in the background — but it stands alone in a giant room with a CG plated protector shield. Think Sphere.
The movie starts with another adventure, as Mr. Peabody is guiding Sherman through the French Revolution. Through a cake mishap, Mr. Peabody is headed towards the guillotine. He escapes and then retells his brilliant plan, Sexy New Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes-style — complete with instant replay diagram. It's adorable.
They hop into the WABAC machine, after learning a valuable lesson and head home for an early bedtime. Why? Because tomorrow is Sherman's first day of school. Sadly, Sherman's first day does not go that great. He inadvertently shows up another classmate (the blonde Penny). This leads to a fight. Penny makes fun of Sherman's father being a dog, and then calls Sherman a dog himself. Sherman retaliates by biting her.
Child Protective Services are called. Mr. Peabody is brought in and the CPS states that if Penny's parents want to press charges, Mr. Peabody will lose custody of Sherman. Mr. Peabody is distraught and appalled by Sherman's behavior. But he goes silent when he finds out this whole thing was spurred by the "dog" insult. The next logical step? Invite Penny and her family over for dinner. While Mr. Peabody wines and dines Penny's Parents, Sherman shows off the WABACK machine. And you can only guess what happens next. Penny gets lost, and it's up to Mr. Peabody and Sherman to get her back, before her parents find out.
It's surprisingly dark — but this big plot twist lends itself to real emotional attachement to these characters. I could have watched the whole thing, even in this unfinished state. The cherry on top has to be Ty Burrell (the Dad from Modern Family) as Mr. Peabody — he aces it. That's all we got to see thus far, but Minkoff promises the movie will include ancient Egypt, the Italian Renaissance and the Trojan War.
All in all, this was way better than we expected, and we're ready to see more.
Next up on the slate was a 30-minute look at The Croods. The voice cast is stellar: Ryan Reynolds plays the more advanced Caveman and love interest to Emma Stone, the oldest daughter of Nic Cage, who's the father of The Croods. It's got that adult Dreamworks wit and a lot of really fun action. But the most durable impression this movie makes probably comes from the array of wild animals dreamt up by the movie's creators.
As opposed to mastodons and saber-toothed tigers, The Croods goes full fantasy. What we see is a hodgepodge of beasts and environments. The desert The Crood family must cross is basically a dry coral reef where walking whales spend their days open mouthed like clams in the sun. Birds are mixed with piranhas. Meerkats with bats that look like innocent hanging gourds. The whole world is completely insane, and staggeringly beautiful. Honestly, if the whole movie was a giant fake documentary about this wacky land, we would be just fine. But instead, it's about a family struggling with modern technology, etc. etc. It's sweet, but thank goodness there's this lush wildlife and great voice talent to fall back on or I would be worried it's more of the same. Even though this is the first Dreamworks family movie about a family, the dynamic doesn't seem too new. Still, we're really excited to see more creatures.
Finally we watched a bit of the racing movie Turbo, also starring Ryan Reynolds. It has a pretty impressive cast, sadly I've yet to form any sort of emotional bond to racing movies besides Breaking Away (which the director cited as a large influence on this film). But a lot of the heart was lost on me.