“Peanuts” a family classic

The Peanuts gang in their new big screen adventure!

The Peanuts gang in their new big screen adventure!

I maybe overdoing the headline a bit but to me this is what a family film classic should be. Timeless, funny, sad, heartwarming and colorful for kids. And rarely do we get a movie that has those qualifications outside of Disney’s library. To think that 65 years ago, the characters of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Sally and Snoopy would still hold up in today’s world. After all the movies and TV specials, you think a CGI animated film based on Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strip would spell disaster. However, thanks to director Steve Martino (2008’s Horton Hears a Who) and a script written by the son of Schulz, we get not only a good adaptation of Peanuts but also one of the best family movies I’ve seen since this year’s Inside Out.

“The Peanuts Movie” is light on story but that’s really all it needs. No bad guys, no great crisis and certainly no environmental plot. The narrative revolves around Charlie Brown and his quest to get noticed by The Little Red-Head Girl once she moves into the neighborhood. As typical Charlie Brown-lore, he tries everything he can to get recognized and his failure often results in hilarity or tragedy. The spirit of the character is truly there and retains to the idea of perseverance.

To talk about what makes that a key factor, I would have to explain every scene in this movie and that would be wrong to do. To put it simply, there are constant times when Charlie’s ethics are put to the test when it comes to telling the truth or helping someone out in support. My personal favorite has to be when he is assigned to make a book report and partnered with the new girl. Without giving too much away, what results from this is one of the most well-written and heart-wrenching scenes in the movie. An act that is so simple that makes you feel bad for the blockhead even more.

Also on the side, Snoopy cranks out a romance story on his typewriter. The beagle with a huge imagination finds himself typing out a climatic tale of his fight with the Red Baron while winning the heart of a poodle named Fifi (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth who talks more in Snoopy’s lingo than actual dialogue.) In a sense, these scenes do add some good comedy and connect to the drama of the main storyline. However, there is a feeling that scenes of Snoopy flying around in his doghouse do go on for a tad too long. In fact, near the second half, these parts get a bit sporadic that it makes me wonder if the movie would be stronger if these scenes were taken out or perhaps cut-down. Thought I can’t lie, any moment with Woodstock and his pit crew of birds always kept me smiling. Extra credit also goes to using archival recordings of Bill Melendez who voiced the dog and bird language for Snoopy and Woodstock for the film which adds a very nostalgic touch.

Extra kudos to Blue Sky Studios, the team behind Ice Age and Epic, for keeping true to the Schulz design. The animation is flat but I feel there is a reason for it. Instead of a world with deep dimension, the CGI has sort of a stop-motion feel that is almost reminiscent of Will Vinton’s Penny cartoons. As the animation does have depth yet the camera and characters look and feel two-dimensional almost keeping with the way the cartoon looks. Normally, a CGI animated movie would give characters sort of a humanistic approach like Tintin or Toy Story where they move around within a three-dimensional environment. Instead, the animators go for the opposite approach which retains the original art style and makes for a different viewing experience. The only time it nearly breaks from this is during the day dream scenes with Snoopy. This isn’t a flashy or explosive film. The tone is typically simple and not too complex.

But is it truly a masterpiece? Like I said, the dream scenes go on for a little too long and there are times when I would like to see more of the Peanuts gang get some limelight or at least a spot in the plot. And void of musical numbers, two pop tunes nearly dispel the timeless quality but thankfully don’t date the film (as when M.C. Hammer had his songs litter The Addams Family.) From Sally’s love fascination with her “sweet-baboo” to Schroeder’s fancy piano playing, part of me does wish we saw more of them and possibly a subplot on their own. But that is not the kind of movie this is. The focus is on Charlie Brown and his never-ending fight to succeed in a world that is either against him or just a string of bad luck.

While “The Peanuts Movie” isn’t 100% perfect, I will address how hard it can be to find a straight forward and by the book adaption that does things different while true to the source. On top of that, a family film that is fun and has a heartwarming message for kids to hang on to. No matter how hard life gets, something good will happen but not the way you anticipate or expect it. And I will admit it, I am probably one of the few, if not many, who shed a tear at the end once this message turned up. For everything this movie has, it succeeds. You can tell there was effort in the writing and be faithful to Schulz’s creations. They even go as far to have no laptops or televisions seen in order to keep this incarnation of Peanuts timeless as possible. At the end of the day, you have to admit this one does give other holiday movies a run for their money on how enjoyable they will be. If you are going to see one movie this season before the other tentpoles, at least give this blockhead a chance and I’m positive you will feel your heartstrings tugged just as mine were by the end. Here’s looking at you, Sparky…

About moviebuffmel90

Considering my passion of films, I apprecaite reviewing them and recommending ones either some have heard of or know little about.

Posted on November 13, 2015, in In Theaters (Sort of) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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