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No, it is not surprising that the Mr. Peabody movie beat out Aaron Paul's Need for Speed at the box office, because the Mr. Peabody movie had more of a plot than Need for Speed. Content in a movie always wins over flash and special effects. Mr. Peabody put more time into its plot so it's not surprising that it won.
In a time when people have retreated back into Hollywood fantasy lands and digital dream scapes, there is nothing surprising about one bad film out performing another one. What would be surprising would instead be the outright rejection of the vapid entertainment industry, in favor of individuals and communities becoming more compassionate and aware and taking on the pressing challenges that face humanity and the planet.
For some reason, the "Fast and the Furious" movies are uber-popular. The "Need for Speed" flick tried to make that popularity into another car racing movie. It failed. "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" is a kind-hearted family adventure that everyone likes. It continues the run of "Frozen" and "The Lego Movie" as family-friendly choices that have done well at the box office since November 2013. It's not a surprise.
I remember seeing the trailer for Aaron Paul's Need For Speed a few times and just saw it as a cheap version of the Fast & Furious empire, a rip somewhat. I wasn't interested in it. I think that is how the majority of people felt about it. It's no surprise to me that more people patronized the family friendly movie.