Peabody and Sherman (U, 92 mins)

Director: Rob Minkoff

2 stars

Animated characters Mr Peabody and Sherman were part of Rocky and Bullwinkle's cartoon show in the early 60s.

Mr. Peabody is a super-intelligent dog and Sherman is his seven year old adopted son, and together they go on educational adventures through time using Mr. Peabody's time machine, the WABAC.

On the one hand it's surprising that it's taken 50 years for these characters to come to the big screen.

But clearly the makers of Family Guy took from the concept their inspiration for the many time travel adventures Brian and Stewie have, so it's likely that the ongoing success of that made someone deem it worthwhile to dust down the original property and turn it into a feature length animated movie. They needn't have bothered.

This is demonstrated in a pointless introductory sequence in which Mr Peabody and Sherman (voiced by Modern Family's Ty Burrell and Max Charles) encounter Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution for no discernible story reason whatsoever.

It's the first sign that this is a film less interested in its characters than in being a history lesson, and that's surely the last thing kids want when they visit the cinema.

Once that's out of the way the story continues with Sherman starting school, where a bullying problem with a classmate gets out of hand and the question is raised of how a dog can possibly be a fit parent.

It's a fairly flimsy framework on which to hang a film, and after some thoroughly unengaging stuff involving this, the main plot kicks off when Sherman is forced to spend time with the girl who is bullying him.

Showing her the WABAC to prove he's not a liar, they end up in ancient Egypt, forcing Mr Peabody to go back and rescue them.

The story doesn't so much flow organically from there as ping randomly from one point in time to another, pushing on to Renaissance Italy and ancient Greece for no reason other than these are historical times, events and characters that people are aware of.

If you're going to dabble in these sorts of shenanigans, at least have the imagination to do something clever or original with it. But this is a story that seems thrown together with the bare minimum of care and attention, that never even attempts to do something out of the ordinary with the time travel element.

So haphazard is it, that it could simply be a selection of episodes thrown together, each with a different historical setting, and loosely tied up with a stuck-in-time bow.

The jokes are largely science puns, and whose benefit these are supposed to be for is a mystery. Kids won't get them ("I don't get it" being pretty much Sherman's catchphrase) and adults will groan at how weak they are.

There's nothing like actual wit and Peabody and Sherman themselves are hardly the most endearing of characters. You'll get more entertainment with Family Guy and your children will get more education with Horrible Histories.

See it if you liked: Meet the Robinsons, Free Birds, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle

The Invisible Woman (12A, 111 mins)

Director: Ralph Fiennes

2 stars

For his second film as director, Ralph Fiennes takes on the Claire Tomalin book about the secret mistress of Charles Dickens and delivers a sombre, treacle-paced drama of little impact.

In 1883 we meet teacher Nelly (Felicity Jones) and hear of how she knew Charles Dickens when she was a child.

But we subsequently find out in flashbacks to many years before how it was much more than this, when she was a young actress who met Dickens (Ralph Fiennes), a married man with many children and a wife (Joanna Scanlan) whom he barely seems to acknowledge exists.

An extremely slow burn infatuation that doesn't offer much spark develops between them, but then all they do is talk about this relationship that they don't in fact seem to have.

In a way the deliberateness of the pacing is to be admired, rather than presenting us with something sordid, but it soon becomes tedious.

Dickens is the celebrity of his age, and the film is at its best in livelier moments when his gregariousness and star quality are to the fore, but in truth Nelly is a bit of a drip.

In the end it's Scanlan who impresses most, and the best that can be said of the rest is that it all takes place in very nicely appointed Victorian drawing rooms and theatres, but generally this is dreary stuff.

See it if you liked: Shadowlands, The Duchess, Anna Karenina

Dallas Buyers Club (15, 117 mins)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

3 stars

Matthew McConaughey has received his first Oscar nomination and is favourite to win the award for his impressive portrayal here of Ron Woodroof, a hard-living Texas man who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and given a month to live.

Refusing to accept this, he seeks out treatments, but when the drug being trialled turns out to be more toxic than helpful, he's forced to go further afield for alternatives.

This leads him to Mexico where he finds medications that work on him, and he quickly realises there's money to be made in selling it in the States.

To get around legal difficulties, he sets up a club where people pay a monthly fee then receive the drugs for free.

Though it rightfully pours scorn on the monetary reasons involved for why certain pharmaceuticals are given preferential treatment over others, in most regards this is a fairly standard tale of someone, at first self-serving, learning to do the right thing for the benefit of other people.

It's raised by the performance of McConaughey, which is not only a physically remarkable one thanks to his skeletal appearance, but the spirit and drive he invests in Ron gives a thumping heart to a film that is otherwise pretty routine.

See it if you liked: Philadelphia, Lorenzo's Oil, Milk