Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Peanuts Movie

Good grief, this is such a cute film! That's the most obvious take-away after seeing The Peanuts Movie, which I've personally been looking forward to ever since I saw this incredibly adorable teaser trailer over a year ago. The respectful style of animation that mimics the original art from Charles Schultz is such a wonderful melding of traditional artwork with modern CGI that I had a feeling this might be a great introduction to the Peanuts world for kids who may not have been exposed to it previously. Still, it's always a bit of a gamble when going into a revitalized property that was so nostalgic and beloved to so many. For every The Lego Movie there's an equal and opposite The Smurfs or Garfield that keeps us from getting completely on board with something like The Peanuts Movie. Thankfully for us, this is one of the good ones.

Charlie Brown is an average down-on-his-luck guy just trying to find his place in the world. He has an unfortunate history of blunders that have earned him a reputation with his friends, which isn't helped by his remarkably talented dog, Snoopy showing hip up at every turn. Things might be about to change for this lovable blockhead, as a new girl moves in across the street that he's instantly taken with, and he imagines impressing "the little red-haired girl" with uncharacteristic charm and cleverness. Of course, his best efforts are consistently thwarted by the typical pratfalls people have come to expect from him. But there may still be hope as Snoopy comes to his owner's aid, helping him learn to dance and boosting his confidence and courage wherever he can... when he's not battling the villainous WWI pilot, the Red Baron.

From the get-go, this movie immerses us in the nostalgia of the original Peanuts cartoons and comic strips, giving us the iconic piano music we all know and love with a cute introduction to all the familiar characters. The kids are treated to that Holy Grail of childhood known as "Snow Day", where school is cancelled and the day is reserved for wondrous winter games. Right away we're thrust into the lovable dynamic of this group of friends, and we're instantly feeling for poor Charlie Brown, who suffers yet another public failure when trying to fly a kite once again. He's a bit of a sad sack at times, but he's so likable and sincere that we can't help being on his side.

I love the respectful way they portray the Schultz universe (for lack of a better term) with the modern advances in CGI. Not only do the characters look exactly as we remember them, but they found clever ways to incorporate 3D into a mostly 2 dimensional world. Not only that, but the characters haven't been updated to reflect the current generation. They're a throwback to the original comic strip, with old fashioned dialogue and a conspicuous lack of modern technology (which I love). The kids aren't using smart phones or even computers for their school projects, but actual paper and pencils to write book reports. All of the classic Peanuts tropes are here, too: adults speaking in incomprehensible "wah-wah" sounds, Lucy holding psychiatry sessions for a nickle, and Snoopy writing his adventures on a typewriter to name a few.

There's hardly anything to critique in this film, but if I had to pick something I'd say that some of the
aerial dog-fights (which I just realized was a pretty clever pun) with the Red Baron go on a little long for my taste. It's sort of a catch-22, however, because some of the most visually striking scenes are during those battles. Still, we could have cut the flying scenes in half and wouldn't have missed too much, in my opinion.

Regardless of my minor nit-picks, this is an incredibly fun movie with a sweet message that transcends generations young and old. This movie is so utterly charming that it almost feels wrong to give it a grade. I love the animation, the voice performances, the story, and the humor of this film, so taking the inconsequential pacing issues, I feel like this film more than deserves the three and a half stars I'm giving it. If you want something to make you smile, go see this movie!