Back in March, I reviewed Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the big screen animated remake of the old Peabody’s Improbable History shorts. The movie worked out well as an adaptation of the shorts, building on top of the formula set down by Peabody’s Improbable History of a trip in the WABAC to meet a historical personage and help them to do what history says they did, wrapping up with a pun. So, why a second look?
Part of preparing for Lost in Translation is finding the work to be reviewed. Most of the movies reviewed are found on DVD by wandering the aisles of the music and video store, looking for anything that stands out. A few weeks ago, I found the complete collection of Peabody’s Improbable History, standing out along with Mr. Peabody & Sherman on DVD. Ninety five-minute short cartoons, featuring fractured history and weaponized puns, well worth watching, leading me to agree with my earlier findings. The ninety-first short, or, properly, the first short is the reason for the second look.
That first short, entitled “Show Opening” in the collection, set up the entire premise of Peabody’s Improbable History. The short shows Mr. Peabody adopting Sherman and why he built the WABAC. The collection was my first time seeing it. I had been working on memories of reruns of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show when it was on YTV. My viewing was hit and miss, so I got the gist of the show without getting full details. Having access to the first short and, indeed, the entire collection means reassessing the review.
Turns out, the movie was a better adaptation than original review said. Mr. Peabody & Sherman mined “Show Opening”, using it almost verbatim in the opening minutes. Mr. Peabody’s apartment in the movie is a larger budget version of his apartment in the shorts. The puns are as wonderful in the movie. Compare*.
From “Henry VIII”:
Catharine Parr, Henry’s fifth wife, is along the wall for her execution, facing a firing line aiming golf clubs. Sherman naturally asks about her and Mr. Peabody explains.
Sherman: “But the guards are aiming at her with golf clubs?”
Mr. Peabody: “How else would you shoot Parr?”
From Mr. Peabody & Sherman:
After escaping Robespierre at the start of the Reign of Terror, Mr. Peabody remarks on how the French Revolutuion could have been prevented.
Mr. Peabody: And think, Marie Antoinette could have avoided the whole revolution if she simply issued an edict to distribute bread to the poor. But then she couldn’t have her dessert.
Sherman: But why, Mr. Peabody.
Mr. Peabody: Because, Sherman, you can’t have your cake and edict, too.
It’s obvious that the writers watched the original series, all of it. They started at the original concept, of a dog adopting a boy and Mr. Peabody needing a way to channel Sherman’s energy, leading to the creation of the WABAC. The CG animation was used to tell the story about a dog and his boy instead of being the reason for the movie. There were a few updates; it’s been fifty-five years since “Show Opening” first aired and a lot more history has happened, but Mr. Peabody is still a genius. The effort was made to keep the core, and the movie leans heavily on the first short as its main source. Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a far better adaptation than expected.
Next week, the November news round up.
* Neither of these comes close to the pun ending the “Mata Hari” short. The fourth wall was broken to warn viewers of the quality of the final pun.