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New Release Review - SNOOPY AND CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE

Charles M Schulz's beloved characters return to the screen.

Review by Joshua Mitchell (@jlfm97)

Directed by: Steve Martino

Starring: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Kristin Chenoweth


The purists may find some things to pick on, but general audiences should be delighted by this whimsical, warm-hearted nostalgia trip. The Peanuts Movie is not without problems, but the opportunity to spend time with some of the most lovable characters in pop culture history is more than worth a trip to the local cinema.



On paper, The Peanuts Movie seems destined for disaster. The film is produced by Blue Sky Studio (the animation company best known for their endless Ice Age sequels), directed by Steve Martino (responsible for the passable Horton Hears a Who adaption, and the fourth Ice Age film), and it's in 3D CG animation. And yet, the finished product really works. Whether this is because of involvement by the Schulz family (the screenplay is penned by Charles M. Schulz's son and grandson), or a filmmaking ability that the studio possessed all along, the bottom line is that The Peanuts Movie is a charmer that's genuinely for all ages.
In the film's appropriately minimal storyline, Charlie Brown and friends notice that a new girl - with red hair! - moves into their town. Charlie Brown is instantly in love with her, and does everything he can to impress her. But of course, his wishy-washy tendencies keep him from speaking directly to her; instead he comes up with a variety of ideas to sweep her off her feet.
The Peanuts Movie is a joy to watch. Rarely does a film adaption reflect the spirit of its source material so well. Many gags are taken directly from the comic strips or television specials, but the new material (which compromises about 75% of the film's humour) is very funny and nails the tone of Schulz's work. There's more slapstick than one might expect, but it's executed surprisingly well. The characters are all here, largely as you remember them, with the only notable omission being Rerun (as he's likely being saved for a potential sequel), though Snoopy's family makes only a token appearance during the end credits.
The CG animation works extremely well, with the overall character and painterly style lending itself beautifully to the film. There is some variety in the animation during dream sequences, fantasies, and the like, to the point where the move from hand-drawn animation to CG seems justified. Like the visuals, the voice cast has been cleaned up a little bit while still retaining that rough edge that made the television specials so intriguing.
Other than the lack of Biblical discussion - which was a profound point of the strips and the basis for one of the greatest scenes in television history in A Charlie Brown Christmas - the only negative change from the source material is found in the music direction. One of the most important elements of the classic television specials was Vince Guaraldi's jazzy scores which set a tone, rather than mimicking the onscreen events. Christophe Beck's traditional animation score would be quite admirable in another film, but here, it feels wrong. The dynamic animation was probably the cause for the more straightforward approach, but it loses a lot of the charm of what came before. The occasional snippets of Guaraldi's themes and David Benoit's performance contributions only make the lack of jazz more noticeable. Even worse is the injection of pop songs in the mix, which would be palatable in a different movie, but is jarringly out of place here.
The purists may find some things to pick on, but general audiences should be delighted by this whimsical, warm-hearted nostalgia trip. It's just the right length at an hour-and-a-half, and there are charm and laughs to spare. The Peanuts Movie is not without problems - the music being by far the biggest - but the opportunity to spend time with some of the most lovable characters in pop culture history is more than worth a trip to the local cinema. In a world where sequels tend to be made from every movie that audiences so much as sneeze at, here's a film where another chapter would be a welcome treat to be met with open arms.
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