Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Directed by: Steve Martino
Written by: Bryan Schultz, Craig Schultz & Cornelius Uliano
Voices of: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets, Anastasia Bredikhina, Noah Johnston, Rebecca Bloom, Francesca Capaldi, Venus Schultheis & Alexander Garfin
I don’t exactly have the nostalgia that most people do for Charles Schultz’s PEANUTS. While I read the comics as a kid and occasionally watched reruns of the animated show, I never really had a big affiliation for Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang. That being said, I was hesitantly excited for this new big screen version of the classic comic strip/cartoon series. Using gorgeous animation and a script that’s driven by an emotionally honest core, THE PEANUTS MOVIE is heartwarming fun for the whole family.
Charlie Brown is a perpetual blockhead with serious self-confidence issues. Brown’s emotional instability all comes to a peak when a new kid moves in across the street from him. This little red-haired girl becomes the crush of Charlie Brown’s life and he goes out of his way to do whatever he can to change his self-perceived identity in order to impress her. You can imagine how this might play out as the school’s talent show comes up as well as a dance. Meanwhile, the lovable dog Snoopy finds a typewriter and immerses himself in a long-running story in which he pursues the elusive Red Baron.
The first thing that really struck me about THE PEANUTS MOVIE is how well-animated it is. Instead of simply giving the Peanuts gang a fully computerized makeover, this has the appearance of traditional 2D animation that happens to have 3D enhancing it. While I’m sure that a majority (if not all) of the movie was animated through computers, it certainly doesn’t look that way as we get old-school comic panels for Charlie Brown’s day dreams as well as motion lines for a phone ringing, someone crashing into a wall, etc. The effect of combining these two mediums looks gorgeous and seeing these visuals on the big screen is enough to wow even the most apathetic Peanuts fan. Even though I haven’t read a Peanuts comic in years or even watched the Great Pumpkin or Christmas specials in about a decade, I still caught a lot of scenes taken directly out of the comic panels. We get Lucy giving psychiatric advice, the kite-eating tree, and, of course, Snoopy’s antics as he hunts the Red Baron.
The sense of humor is mature and smart going as far as to have one long joke dedicated to Charlie Brown hunting down a copy of War & Peace for a book report. The melancholy attitude of the original PEANUTS is kept fully intact as Charlie Brown is still a cartoon character who’s legitimately suffering from Depression. While the dialogue and storyline amongst Charlie Brown’s journey of self-discovery will resonate more with adults and older children, the Snoopy and Woodstock moments are strictly for the little kids. Though the Red Baron segments slightly overstayed their welcome for me, they seemed to do the trick for the younger children in the audience who were cracking up. Even with these slow moments, I couldn’t help but marvel at how cool the animation looked during these “action” scenes.
Besides Snoopy and Woodstock (brought to life with Bill Melendez’s archival voice work), all of the other famous side characters all pop in for a number of strong moments. Of course, Lucy plays a big part of the story as a bully who keeps draining Charlie Brown’s confidence like an emotion-sucking vampire in the guise of a little girl. Pig Pen also has a couple of solid laughs. Peppermint Patty and Marcie (my personal favorites) serve as two noticeable presences. However, I noticed a distinct lack of Linus and his blanket in this film (he only shows up for a combined total of about five minutes). Meanwhile, the little red-haired girl is a far bigger character than you’d expect from her title and adds to the legitimately feel-good message at the end of the film.
While THE PEANUTS MOVIE isn’t exactly high-art or the best family film of the year (that still goes to a certain Pixar film), it is heartfelt and innocent fun for all ages. The pacing lags in a couple of spots (mainly a few of the Red Baron sequences), but I found the overall story and message to be emotionally honest and genuine. Overall, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one. Whether you’re seeing it by yourself for the sake of nostalgia or taking the kids out for a movie night, THE PEANUTS MOVIE comes recommended!