The Peanuts Movie
Steve Martino’s The Peanuts Movie brings Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all their friends into a new school term as the lovable clutz tries to impress the new girl.
Peanuts is the latest beloved childhood pleasure to be adapted for a modern audience in big screen format and I was surprised by how little has actually been modernised. My exposure to these characters has been a little limited but I’ve seen enough to know what it is that makes people love this and it’s definitely all here.
The animation has been replaced with CGI but not in a distracting way. There are still lots of imperfections in movement and a certain hand drawn quality to the presentation that makes this feel like a natural update. Allowing these imperfections into the design means that there are some really clever sight gags that flow naturally into the style of the film.
Outside of the visuals the characters are all spot on as well. Charlie Brown and his group of friends are still completely lost in time as they do things like use typewriters, write with pencils and most importantly, play outside rather than sitting on their iPads all the time. There’s no sense of when this is set as it exists in this ageless world where technology never advances and the children never grow up. It’s refreshing to see that there was no attempt made to make Charlie Brown relevant to a new generation as the whole thing just speaks for itself.
The story is really simple and moves along nicely. Charlie Brown’s numerous attempts to impress the new girl while being terrified to actually speak to her create a great many amusing situations as his good intentioned clumsiness stops him from making a good impression on her. There’s lots of fodder for misunderstandings and plenty of opportunity to feel sorry for him as his attempts to impress her while helping others are completely genuine. It’s a testament to the quality of the writing that I was invested enough to feel sympathetic to his cause.
Most of the film is taken up with that story but there’s a subplot involving Snoopy writing a novel where he casts himself as a daring pilot on a mission to rescue the love of his life. This plot forays into an imaginary world complete with dogfights and death defying air stunts. It’s fine as it is but it is a bit intrusive at times. Much of the end of the film is taken up with the conclusion to this and it’s not quite as interesting as Charlie Brown’s rotten luck. A little less focus on it would have made things a lot better.
The bottom line here is that if you’re a fan of these characters then you will probably like this a lot. So much care and attention has been paid to making sure the characters are preserved just the way people like them that it’d be hard not to enjoy it if you have any prior investment in this. The flip side to this is that it might not be as accessible to new viewers who aren’t familiar with the material as the film just throws the audience straight in. I definitely think that young kids will get along fine with it and it promotes a positive message about never giving up as well as standing up for yourself. You could do worse as a family film over the festive period.