“The Peanuts Movie” (2015) Rated G. Dir:Steve Martino
This film is currently playing in theaters everywhere.
In this 3D-animated feature version of late Charles M. Schulz’s famous comic strip “Peanuts”, the lovable loser Charlie Brown falls head over heels in love for a new girl who has just moved into the neighborhood–a girl he refers to as the “Little Red Haired Girl.” Feeling this could be an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, he attempts to make some changes in his life, and decides to enroll in a talent show to impress her. Things do not quite work out the way he expects as situations always seem to be conspiring against him. Meanwhile, his dog Snoopy takes to the skies and his imagination to pursue his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron.
One probably does not have to explain what “The Peanuts” is about, except for some of the young ones and a few people who live in foreign countries where “The Peanuts” comic strip hasn’t been translated. To merely say that I’ve been a “Peanuts” fan is an understatement. It’s perhaps the first comic I’ve ever read. I even remember picking up a hardcover of “Go Fly a Kite, Charlie Brown!” that some neighbor “donated” next to the dumpster. I’ve learned to appreciate Beethoven and Van Gogh from reading these comics. I remember Snoopy had a Van Gogh painting which was lost in a fire when his doghouse burned down that one time. And, of course, one can’t forget the annual Charlie Brown specials that always played during the holidays.
So, being a fan, I admit I was pretty skeptical when I saw the trailer. The line work is pretty much what gave the original comics its personality and turning it into 3D seemed like a bad idea. The characters now had texture yet there were 2D lines for the eyes and expressions. The 3D also looked somewhat flat to try to accommodate the 2D-style. Anyways, after seeing the film, I have to say that they pulled everything off quite perfectly. It truly feels like “Peanuts,” The 3D aspect didn’t bother me at all. The characters and the spirit of the story remained consistent. The original humor and the nuances are still there. Admittedly, it was surprising how faithful they tried to match it to the spirit of the cartoon series. Peanuts characters are all about getting the expressions just right, and Blue Sky Studios, who did the animation, nailed it.
I should note, though, that this movie is definitely made for the fans and for kids who are not familiar with the characters. People who were never fans at all will probably not get anything new here. There are many familiar elements here that one will recall from previous Charlie Brown specials, including many visual in-jokes. One memorable scene is a dancing scene that is reminiscent of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” special, complete with the hilarious “Peanuts” gang dance moves. The Red Baron scene is pretty awesome and action-packed, and is some of my favorite parts of the film.
Since there’s a time limit, they had to simplify the story somewhat. Instead of a series of vignettes, this story focuses mainly on Charlie Brown and Snoopy. You don’t get as much regular banter between Linus and Lucy, but they all contribute to the main story and theme. The theme is also quite refreshing and works well with the character of Charlie Brown.
The characters are pretty spot on. Charlie Brown is quite lovable. Lucy is a great antagonist. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are just as we remember them. Interestingly, Pig Pen gets a bit more love here too, which is cool. One character stands out the most, though–Snoopy is awesome in this film. Even in the comic strip and the TV cartoons, Snoopy was the coolest one of the characters. He can’t talk, but his yelps, expressions, and movements made me laugh the most. Some of the funniest and the most dramatic scenes are him as the World War I Flying Ace on his Sopwith Camel.
If there are any complaints, and this is just being nitpicky, one can complain that the pace is somewhat speedier than the TV serials. And, this is expected. Being a feature film, it certainly tries to be much flashier, and is more action-packed, but it works. Another complaint could be that the jokes may feel rather recycled, and one might say “The Peanuts Movie” is almost like a “greatest hits” special, except unified in a theme. This may be somewhat true, but, this is what makes it “Peanuts.” Similar things can be said about “The Simpsons” movie, “The X-Files” movie, and “The Muppets.” You can’t really mess with its core, or it is no longer what it set out to be. With that said, I can see the sequel going into newer territory. This is only the first film, and it has established the “Peanuts” world quite nicely.
Overall, this film is a joy to watch, especially if you’re a fan. This is not a Disney film. There’s no evil villains to slay. In fact, here, the villains are also your friends. This film is about the diversity of characters. It is about the complexity of relationships. It is about doing the right thing even when inconvenient. And, like the comic, this film may feature kids, but it is also a reflection of our society. And, that cursed Red Baron.