By Jessica Drumm
In a world where fast-paced action movies and over-the-top fantasies dominate the big screen, The Peanuts Movie offers a refreshing change of pace.
It’s a pleasant, G-rated treat that audiences over a certain age will know and love, and that younger generations of all ages can enjoy. Bringing simplicity back to the theater, The Peanuts Movie is a breath of fresh air.
Based on beloved comic strip by Charles M. Schulz and its many animated offshoots, The Peanuts Movie brings perpetual underdog, Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), rascally Snoopy (Bill Melendez), lovable Woodstock, and Charlie’s many pals to life in this 3D computer-animated film.
At the start of the story, Charlie sees an opportunity to change his seemingly infinite run of mistakes when he falls for his new next door neighbor, the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). Good ol’ Chuck then sets out to become a “winner” after taking advice from the vain yet insecure Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller).
Unfortunately for Charlie Brown, his attempts to become a winner don’t turn out the way he expects. Despite his many comical setbacks, Charlie Brown just might learn to appreciate himself as he is, and maybe, gain the confidence to speak to his red-haired crush. At the same time that Charlie is struggling to find himself, Snoopy’s imagination and novel writing is running wild.
The film focuses mainly on a small group of Peanuts characters – mischievous Snoopy, vain Lucy, good-natured Linus, and, of course, blockheaded Charlie Brown – and all of them remain as likable as ever thanks to the solid voice acting done by the children behind them.
However, the movie also devotes quality screen time to lesser seen characters such as Charlie’s sister Sally, tomboyish Peppermint Patty, bookworm Marcie, and musical Schroeder, among others, allowing their individual personalities to shine through.
Written by Craig and Bryan Schulz (Schulz’ son and grandson) and Cornelius Uliano, The Peanuts Movie interweaves its two main themes – Charlie Brown’s attempts to impress the Little Red Haired Girl and Snoopy’s fictional battle with the Red Baron – in an engaging manner that enhances their individual thematic substance. All the while, the film keeps its ideas open to younger audiences instead of trying to cater to adults.
Just like the Peanuts comic strips and 2D cartoons, The Peanuts Movie carries over the simple, yet pertinent as ever, humanist messages of the past, giving rise to a modern adaptation that keeps the heart of the Peanuts property intact 65 years after it was created.
Blue Sky Studios has transformed the Peanuts from 2D into 3D and thankfully, the transition is perfect.
The film successfully adds realistic texture to both the scenery and the characters in The Peanuts Movie, while at the same time maintaining the stylistic choices and exaggerated cartoon nature of the original comics and 2D animated films. The characters keep the feeling of being hand-drawn when computer animated, while at the same time possessing the refined appearance and modern design that is usually linked to digital images.
For example, the scenes where Snoopy imagined himself as a World War I fighter pilot were brought to life with greater visual appeal than ever before, while still maintaining that innocent, playful feeling associated with simpler imagery. Snoopy’s flying scenes also take advantage of the extra depth created by 3D and bright colors, while the real-world scenes in the movie tend to be more two dimensional.
However, if there is one flaw in the film, it’s that the movie plays things a little too safe, creating a story that could have been a bit more elaborate with its goals. While Peanuts’ films were willing to tackle thought-provoking, emotional ideas in the past, The Peanuts Movie itself holds back from exploring such ideas.
Even though the film is not as substantial as it could have been, older audiences will revel in the nostalgia and simplicity that The Peanuts Movie brings to the big screen, while younger generations will enjoy the silly antics of the film’s lovable characters.
In this action packed, fantasy driven era, it’s a bit shocking, yet undeniably refreshing, to see a children’s movie that doesn’t involve an epic battle between good and evil or some sort of high-strung power struggle.
Instead of taking tiny moviegoers out of their realm the way fantasy does, The Peanuts Movie meets them in their own territory. Driven by the worries a real child might face on a daily basis, the film shows an ordinary kid just trying to find his place in an ordinary yet intimidating world.
The Peanuts Movie succeeds at renewing the Peanuts property, while still keeping its soul and humanistic spirit intact. Nostalgic fans will enjoy the film while also appreciating gestures to the franchise’s past (most notably A Charlie Brown Christmas) and children who have never experienced Charlie Brown before, will take an immediate liking to the lovable blockhead.
All in all, The Peanuts Movie is a satisfying and enjoyable return to the big screen for Charlie Brown and his pals.