Once upon a time there lived a boy named Charlie Brown,
Who everybody liked until he gave them cause to frown;
For Charlie Brown was quick to frown and sadly slow to smile,
And had the same effect on all his class’s rank and file.
Whenever his attempts at triumph went from bad to worse
And friends would laugh about his gaffe, he’d blame the universe.
Yet those who knew him well enough had faith in Charlie Brown
And knew that there would come a day he wouldn’t be let down.
Every foolish down-and-out and football-missing goof
Believes the talk of failure, thinking they are living proof.
Yet even then the heavy-hearted, unimpressive mourner
Should know that every failure still has Someone in his corner.
MPAA rating: G
With so many old properties being revamped and rebooted in ways no one ever asked for or wanted, it’s easy to imagine a modern version of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip going off the rails. I shudder at the thought of some misguided writer combining Charlie Brown and Linus with smartphones and hip hop in a sad attempt at making them accessible to today’s youth. Yet, thankfully, someone thought better of it; that’s why The Peanuts Movie is such a wonder. Not only is it extremely faithful to its source material, but it effortlessly captures the charm of the classic cartoons. Like them, its appeal seems timeless, and there aren’t many animated films these days that fit that description.
Blue Sky Studios has found a nice balance between the original 2D and more recent 3D animation; it allows the same character appearances and comic-strip-style reaction lines while adding depth to their surroundings. The updated look is both vintage and current, working well for the everyday antics of the kids and bringing Snoopy’s WWI flying-ace dream sequences to a thrilling new level.
Luckily, though, the animation is really all that has been brought into the 21st century. There’s still the gentle pessimism of lovable Charlie Brown, the wise counsel of Linus, the goofy antics of Snoopy and Woodstock, the bossy hostility of Lucy, the distinct quirks of their various friends. While Linus’s religiosity has been dropped and the humor is more fast-paced, it all feels of a piece with the classic cartoons of the ‘60s and ‘70s, capturing their spirit better than the more recent 2D attempts on TV. Yet, as episodic as it seems at times, the filmmakers created a perfect connection among Charlie Brown’s misadventures: his attempts to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl in his class. I don’t remember the old Charlie Brown ever being as industrious (reading War and Peace in one weekend?!) or as kind as he is here (Snoopy too for that matter), but even with his classmates’ teasing, it’s clear what a role model the movie’s Charlie Brown is.
Throughout the film, I felt it was charming and likable, but it wasn’t until the end that I realized how much I truly admired The Peanuts Movie. Fans of the original specials will surely feel more of a connection with it, but it’s a film with all the earmarks of an instant classic, perhaps not a laugh-out-loud favorite, but a bit of warm nostalgia worth watching for years to come. It’s easily the best film Blue Sky has ever created and one I would feel proud to watch with kids of my own someday.
Best line: (Charlie Brown) “You’ve got to help me, Linus! I’m not sure I can handle being partners with the Little Red-Haired Girl! How will I support her? I can’t afford a mortgage! What if I’m put into escrow?” (Linus) “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can turn a simple book report into a lifelong commitment.”
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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