The Peanuts Movie Review
IT’S A CHARMING
CG MOVIE, CHARLIE BROWN
For over 65 years, Peanuts has the maintained a since a prestige and adulation from its viewers. Created by the late Charles M. Schulz, the entire Peanuts gang (consisting of characters like Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and Peppermint Patty amongst many others) has thrived in its comic strip format with simplistic jokes and gags that are accustomed to classic newspaper cartoon strips (neither offensive nor satirical). With the success of the on-going cartoon strip, it wasn’t long before the Peanuts gang made their jump to television and feature films, including famous TV specials such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Now, after being absent for several years, Charlie Brown and the entire Peanuts gang returns with a brand CG feature The Peanuts Movie. Do Schulz’s famous characters reach a new generation or is it only faded nostalgia?
In the middle of winter, the “Peanuts” gang gathers together to celebrate a snow day, with Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) desperate trying to be the widely accepted as the local hero from his fellow peers. However, bumbling follies follow his good intentions, making him the laughing stock in the group. Feeling discouraged for his mishaps, Charlie’s sprits are lifted with the new arrival of “The Little Red-Headed Girl” (Francesca Capaldi), a new neighbor that has bumbling prone youth falling in love with. In an attempt to impress her, Charlie picks up new talents; learning how to dance, mastering a magic act for the school talent show, and analyzing Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” for a book report. With a trial and error effort of “wooing” her, Charlie Brown struggles to clearly define his self-worth, while, at the same time, his loyal dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) get lost in his imagines when composing an aerial adventure story that features him saving his one true love Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) from the feared WWI German fighter pilot “The Red Baron”.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I’ve actually never read any of Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon strips. Truthfully, I never knew they were until I was a little bit older (I know…I’m a “Blockhead”). I mostly remember watching the Peanuts gang on some of the cartoon shorts / movies or some of the seasonal specials that they usually put on TV. I liked watching them, but they weren’t my absolute favorite. When I heard the news that the studios heads of Blu Sky Production were going to make a new Peanuts movie, I was, at first, a little bit hesitant (thinking that Peanuts gang in general would not catch on and / or speak to a new generation. However, I was wrong as The Peanuts Movie, while have some slight problems, still retains the fundamental heart and spirit of the franchise’s iconic past
The Peanuts Movie is directed by Steve Martino, who directed other Blue Sky animations like Horton Hears a Who and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Martino also lends a hand in the writing department, penning the feature’s script along with Charles Schulz’s son and grandson (Craig and Bryan Schulz) as well as Cornelius Uliano. Collectively, the group crafts a new adventure for Charlie Brown and his Peanut friends that’s entertaining and joyful to watch. To me, the greatest thing about The Peanuts Movie is that the movie itself feels like a classic Peanuts story (or a Charlie Brown / Snoopy adventure of sorts). There’s been no additional modernization to the Peanut’s world with unnecessary or painfully obvious gags on current pop culture or social media references. In truth, the movie’s setting (and perhaps the movie itself) feels timeless and brings with it a lot of nostalgia to the proceedings.
Since Charlie Brown and his friends haven’t been recently around at the theaters, they were due for a digital makeover for the big screen adventure. Thus, making the jump from 2D animation to 3D animation was naturally a given and its result is a beautiful and seamless one. It doesn’t have that hyper-realistic look to it like a Disney / Pixar film would have, but The Peanuts Movie has its own look and feel with classic character styles that have been upgraded with a fresh polish appearance. Even Snoopy’s aerial dogfights with the Red Baron are visually stunning compared to past endeavors. All in all, The Peanuts Movie visually looks great as a animated movie. As a side note, its pretty cool to hear Vince Guaraldi’s classic Charlie Brown song being played in the movie.
I would say that The Peanuts Movie is that it’s not as ambitious as most animated out there. Sure, the film carries Schulz’s loveable moniker of the entire Peanuts gang will have all come to love, but its lacks a poignant story or some type of extra “ommph” to its narration. I think the story could’ve been a little bit more involved than what it was and with a little less Snoopy side story with the Red Baron, which pretty much dominates the third act of the movie. I’m not saying the movie has to be an animated “tear jerker” like a Pixar movie, but perhaps something a little bit new / different from the status quo that many have come to know from Schulz’s characters. All in all, it would seem that Martino is playing it safe when approaching The Peanuts Movie, choosing a tried and true “Peanuts” formula for the feature that lacks substance, but plays upon familiar / charming nostalgia. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to the viewer. I personally think it’s a little bit of both.
On the whole, The Peanuts Movie focuses on the essential characters from the Peanuts gang, consisting of the unlucky “blockhead” Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), the bossy and insecure Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), the even-keel / good natured Linus (Alexander Garfin), and the rambunctious canine Snoopy. The movie also highlights the supporting Peanut characters that are commonly found in a Charlie Brown adventure, including the forever dirty Pig-Pen (A.J. Tecce), the talented musical composer Schroeder (Noah Johnston), the lovable and annoying little sister Sally (Mariel Sheets), the tomboyish Peppermint Patty (Venus Schultheis), and her faithful bookish companion Marcie (Rebecca Bloom). Each character gets enough screen-time to have their moments in the spotlight as each relativelt newcomer kid actor of the group delivers a solid voice performance to their respective character. As a last mentionable, the old archived recorded vocals of the late Bill Melendez to bring both Snoopy and Woodstock (Snoopy’s bird companion) to life is a nice touch, keeping the pair expressive and funny as ever with their nonsensical gibberish banter.
The Peanuts Movie is a safe and well-deserved movie that speaks to both old and new audiences. While it’s not as heavy-hitting as some other animated movies and doesn’t go out of its own trademark parameters in its narration department, there’s plenty to like from this up-to-date Peanuts film from its upgraded animation, to its solid voice performances, and its delightful nostalgia of its franchise’s celebrated past. Personally, I liked the movie and I think my generation (and probably several generations before me) will probably enjoy the movie more so than the current younger generation. However, youngsters, who have never heard of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, or Peanuts in general, will mostly likely take a special liking to The Peanuts Movie, acting as a good entry point for new fans to get aquainted with the loveable “Blockhead” Charlie Brown and his ragtag Peanut pals.