In an industry that commonly revamps nostalgic favorites with often disappointing results, like Alvin and the Chipmunks or The Smurfs, it’s easy to be pessimistic with each new revival. The Peanuts Movie seemed like a dangerous project for animation studio Blue Sky to take on, due to the iconic status of the original comic strip and existing animated adaptations. Thankfully, the people behind this movie seem to have taken great care to preserve the original work’s melancholy qualities, characters, and art style, resulting in an enjoyable animated film that will provide plenty of nostalgic charm to longtime fans.
The story revolves around Charlie Brown (Voiced by Noah Schnapp), an elementary schooler who has a long history of screwing up and failing all of his attempts to accomplish various goals. One winter day, a new girl (Francesca Capaldi) moves in, and Charlie Brown both develops a case of puppy love and also figures that the clean slate she provides will finally allow him to provide someone with a good first impression.
What follows is a string of various plot threads that tie into Charlie Brown’s goal of befriending the perpetually-unnamed Little Red-Haired Girl, from talent shows to school dances to book reports and even a chance for him to earn his entire school’s respect. Meanwhile, a recurring subplot sees his imaginative beagle Snoopy (Bill Melendez) getting wrapped up in his attempt to write an adventure story about a “Flying Ace” attempting to defeat his longtime nemesis the Red Baron as well as save love interest Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) in the process.
Getting my biggest gripes out of the way now, my two biggest issues with The Peanuts Movie stem from its narrative structure. The main story feels very segmented overall instead of feeling like a smooth, interconnected plot, despite all of Charlie Brown’s escapades having the same end goal. Also, Snoopy’s flying fantasies end up coming off as filler material containing more flashy visuals to keep kids interested in the film. It probably would have been okay to have 1 or 2 brief scenes of it, but when put together, they make up almost 1/4 of the film, and feel like they’re in the way by their last segment.
Other than those issues, though, there’s little to complain about. The various cast of kids keep in series tradition by all having their voice acting provided by actual children, and their personalities and trademark quirks remain the same. An even more impressive feat is how Blue Sky transitioned the cast of Peanuts into 3D computer animation while still keeping the feel of the classic hand-drawn material, with various elements still appearing sketchy and a lower framerate to keep things from feeling too smooth.
There are many funny moments, an engaging soundtrack that mixes traditional orchestrated material with the iconic jazz-styled tracks of the past, and a successfully touching conclusion where one of the characters points out to Charlie Brown and the audience how he may be a bigger success than anyone thinks, finally allowing the character a personal triumph.
For years, Blue Sky has seemed like a studio that has very talented artists and animators that have always been in need of good stories and scripts, instead having to deal with the likes of Rio and the Ice Age films. The Peanuts Movie feels like that long-overdue success. Funny, heartfelt, and true to its source material, the final product feels like something that creator Charles Schulz would definitely have approved of, as it sticks to the spirit he conveyed in his work while still incorporating enough elements for younger newcomers to enjoy. While Inside Out still seems likely to be the best animated film of 2015, this is still a film that fans and families should not skip.