THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015)
Featuring the voices of Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Alexander Garfin, Mariel Sheets, A.J. Tecce, Bill Melendez, Francesca Lily Capaldi, Venus Schultheis, Rebecca Bloom, Noah Johnston, Marleik Mar Mar Walker, Madisyn Shipman, William Wunsch, Anastasia Bredikhina and Kristin Chenoweth.
Screenplay by Craig Schulz & Bryan Schulz and Cornelius Uliano.
Directed by Steve Martino.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 89 minutes. Rated G.
I’m not going to lie. The idea of a computer animated Peanuts Movie worried me. Charlie Brown and the gang are classic remnants of another age, and they should be hand drawn.
Charlie Brown was the everyman loser for decades of American kids, an endlessly relatable smart, shy, sort of funny looking optimist who has the football pulled away from him – literally – every time he was just about to succeed.
From daily newspapers to books to beloved TV specials, the Peanuts gang helped two or three generations grow into adulthood, a wise, funny and good-hearted exploration (and explanation) of an all-too-commonly unfair world.
Are they just going to turn it into yet another computer-generated one-size-fits-all kid flick?
And the truth is, it takes a few minutes to get used to these iconic characters as just another example of Pixar-ish computer code. Linus’ hair was particularly hard to get used to – what the heck is going on with that? It looks like he has a tentacled space monster on his head.
However, soon enough the real surprise of The Peanuts Movie reveals itself. It’s not just some cynical cash grab exploiting iconic characters and trying to foist them upon a new generation. No, it is a true labor of love, a celebration of all that is good and pure about the original strip.
There is no real story here per se, but Peanuts was never really about the story. It has always worked best as a loosely-connected series of moments and events, and The Peanuts Movie is sort of like a collection of the comic’s greatest hits.
They are mostly here: Lucy with the football, the kite-eating tree, “Curse you Red Baron!,” Linus’ blanket, “The Doctor is In,” naturally curly hair, You blockhead!, Pig-Pen’s cloud of dust, The Great Pumpkin, dog germs, “It was a dark and stormy night,” the adults that speak like wah wah wah.
Yet, The Peanuts Movie is not simply a rote medley of favorite comic strip moments, it holds together as a loose and funny film. It also reminds us in force what a truly brilliant comic character Snoopy is.
And while the film’s final act slightly overdoes it with the inspirational “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown” speeches, The Peanuts Movie does handily succeed in updating these characters for a new generation and a new millennium. The film also avoids the snarkiness and mean-spiritedness that infects all too much of today’s children’s entertainment.
This isn’t the first Peanuts movie – there was A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Snoopy Come Home, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and more. But I will go so far to say that this may be the best one, which is rather shocking. (The classic TV specials A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown still remain the high-water marks for the series, though.)
Before he died in 2000, Charles Schulz said that he did not want the Peanuts world to continue without him, because he was concerned that the money men would put profit before quality, destroying the strip’s hard-won reputation at the same time that they briefly padded their bottom line.
Well, 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios went out and proved that prediction wrong. With a script co-written by Schulz’s son and grandson, with famous fans like Paul Feig behind the scenes, The Peanuts Movie is a celebration of everything that made the strip beloved.
While I still would have preferred for the film to have been hand animated, I guess that is a reality of the film world today. There were a few brief hand-drawn moments that were fun for the nostalgic fans. Also, I have to admit, some of the computer generated scenes – particularly the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron scenes, were pretty stunning looking, as exciting as some of the biggest action films on film.
Charles Schulz would have heartily approved of The Peanuts Movie, and that is high praise indeed.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 4, 2015.