Review: It’s a good movie, Charlie Brown
The recent release of “The Peanuts Movie” proves that Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang remain relevant and entertaining to all ages.
Sixty-five years after the release of the first comic strip, everyone’s favorite blockhead and his never-aging friends graced the big screens once more. This iteration is the fifth “Peanuts” feature film – the first since “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!)” in 1980.
The release coincides with the golden anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” a quintessential holiday television special released on Dec. 9, 1965.
A look at “The Peanuts Movie” shows just how far the animation has come. Blue Sky Studios took the lead in bringing the traditionally two-dimensional cartoon to life in a 3D landscape.
However, the studio did not completely forsake the traditional hand-drawn animation for a complete CGI overhaul. There were numerous sequences featuring stylization akin to something creator Charles Schulz himself would draw and animate.
This stylization has come to generally mixed reactions among reviewers, citing that they do not mesh well for one reason or another. John Serba of M Live postulates that some of these complaints may come down to personal preference.
“The colors pop, and angles and perspectives vary wildly in comparison to the franchise’s old two-dimensional side-scrolling animation,” he said, “for better maybe. For worse, maybe, too, but any such objection feels superficial.”
Still, the animation styles, both together and separate, still manage to bridge the traditional with the modern. But animation is not the only way in which the new and old come together.
Indeed, the movie still adheres to the formula that made the comic strip a cultural staple, even years after Schulz’ passing in 2000. Take a kid with relentless optimism to counter an equally relentless hopelessness, include is gang of friends on wild adventures and have them all ponder adult concepts of life from their less developed points of view.
This premise is the foundation for “The Peanuts Movie.” Spoilers lie ahead.
The movie itself plays out less like a movie and more like a series of episodes, much like the comic strips. The overarching goal is the same, though – Charlie Brown just wants to succeed at something – even if that something is avoiding the kite-eating tree or pitching an unhittable fastball in the dead of a snowy winter.
True to “Peanuts” fashion, though, Chuck fails spectacularly. He gets tangled up in his kite, Snoopy peppers the pitch back to the mound and Charlie ends up on his back in a physics-defying comedic spin.
Once the Little Red-Haired Girl moves in across the street, though, Charlie Brown’s main focus is to connect with her without panicking at the thought of talking to her. He spends the rest of the movie trying to get her to notice him.
But, again, Chuck has a tendency to fall flat on his back – both figuratively and literally. What makes matters worse is that the majority of his friends remind him about it constantly. Yet, Charlie Brown still keeps going with the support of his faithful dog Snoopy and his best friend Linus.
In the end, he may not get the girl in the traditional sense, but he finally interacts with her without running away or tripping on himself.
Throughout the movie, most every “Peanuts” trope comes into play at least once. Lucy solicits nickels in exchange for “therapy.” The world finds some way to ruin Charlie Brown’s mojo, if only to elicit his signature “Good grief” exclamation. Snoopy gets involved with everything imaginable.
In fact, Charlie Brown’s faithful four-legged friend plays a bigger role than just comic relief. After finding a typewriter in a dumpster after yet another foiled attempt at going to school, Snoopy finds himself on his doghouse trying to find inspiration for the great American novel.
He finds this inspiration in the World War I Flying Ace’s journey to down the Red Baron and save his pilot girlfriend Fifi. This quest to find and rescue love acts equal parts as allegory and as the photo story to the frame narrative of the rest of the movie. As Chuck succeeds, Ace does as well, and vice versa.
This device proves to be one of the more intriguing aspects of the movie, providing viewers with two different perspectives on very similar stories. When mixed with the relentless childhood optimism and disappointment, the story screams “Peanuts” from open to close.
Another aspect of the movie that holds true to tradition is the sound. Minus the newer pop tracks from Meghan Trainor and Flo Rida, the soundtrack features the traditional Vince Guaraldi tracks like “Linus and Lucy” and “Christmas Time Is Here” plus a newer score from Christophe Beck.
No matter the composer, the piano tracks make this movie feel like a “Peanuts” special.
On top of the soundtrack, the voice acting followed the series’ trend of forsaking celebrity cameos for bringing in children to voice act the gang. What viewers get is an authentic characterization that brings out the nostalgic in everyone.
The lone celebrity cameo came from Kristin Chenoweth who voiced Fifi. Chenoweth, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (the adults in the movie) and Bill Melendez (Snoopy and Woodstock) all contributed conversational blips, barks and womps.
Indeed, the movie did pretty much everything to the “Peanuts” formula. Instead of falling flat, it soars as an exemplary part of the series’ repertoire. While there may be some flaws – such as the lack of Linus’ oddly precocious musings – most of them are based in personal preference.
Overall, “The Peanuts Movie” proves to be a quintessential movie for fans of the series and newcomers alike. – 9 out of 10 blue security blankets.