Pin It
Favorite

Good Old Charlie Brown 

The Peanuts Movie celebrates the original spirit of its creator

click to enlarge film1-1-a0b0344f91838c94.jpg

"The Peanuts Movie by Schulz" reads the title card of the new animated feature based on the beloved comic strip — and it feels like there's something of a dare in that designation. On one hand, the creators could argue that it's literally correct, in that two of the three credited screenwriters are Craig Schulz and Bryan Schulz, the son and grandson, respectively, of Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz.

But the implication is that this is a feature to which the creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Linus would give a nod of approval. "This isn't just a crass capitalization on a familiar brand," those two additional words say to us. "Sure, it's 3-D CGI animation instead of hand-drawn. But trust us."

In a sense, it's clear from the outset that director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift) isn't interested in shaking up the Peanuts universe too radically. These kids still occupy an adult-free world, one where Snoopy still writes his novels on a manual typewriter, people still call one another on rotary phones, and children still go outside to play on a snow day. The characters aren't just frozen at the same grade-school age; they're frozen in 1965.

That means Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) is still hapless and anxiety-ridden, and it's from that basic foundation that the story emerges. The Little Red-Haired Girl has just moved into town, and Charlie Brown is simultaneously desperate to impress her, and terrified of actually interacting with her. So he embarks on a series of likely doomed endeavors to prove his worth: entering the school talent show; learning to dance so he can dazzle at a school event; binge-reading War and Peace so he can write the most erudite book report in third-grade history.

Martino and his Schulz-led writing team bounce deftly between the various episodic misadventures, looking for a tone that's more in keeping with the gentle adventure of previous big-screen Peanuts movies like Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!) than with the classic holiday TV specials. That means extra time for Snoopy's fantasy confrontations flying his doghouse into battle with the Red Baron — where he attempts to rescue a poodle pilot named Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) — and a couple of more extended bumbling chase/action sequences. It may be weird to see Charlie Brown's squiggly forelock rendered in 3-D animation, but it does feel like The Peanuts Movie embraces the more relaxed pacing of family films from an era before everything had to be frantic and madcap.

It feels a bit frustrating, then, that The Peanuts Movie spends as much time as it does on its nudging bits of fan service. It's one thing to honor the creative team that brought previous Peanuts adventures to life by having The Little Red-Haired Girl's family arrive via "Mendelson & Melendez Moving," or using Vince Guaraldi's jazzy piano themes and the late Bill Melendez's voice as Snoopy and Woodstock. But there's no real point to an almost word-for-word repeat of Lucy's (Hadley Belle Miller) reaction to being licked by Snoopy, or showing the characters dancing the same iconic steps — Shermy's shrug-shuffle, Frieda's giddy swing — familiar from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This isn't a movie that begs for the kind of self-awareness that shows Charlie Brown picking out his clothes from a closet filled with nothing but yellow shirts adorned with black zigzags.

Instead, it's a movie that really does honor Schulz's idea that children had complex interior lives, and his respect for integrity. Charlie Brown may forever be getting knocked over on the mound by every pitch he throws, or tangled up in the Kite-Eating Tree, but as he says at one point here, "Charlie Brown is not a quitter."

The plot, loose though it may be, keeps a focus on the notion of Charlie Brown finding himself in his embarrassing situations because of everything that's good and decent about him. He's the counterpoint to Lucy's aggressive narcissism, a demonstration of Schulz's idea that Charlie Brown wasn't just a character, but that he had character. While The Peanuts Movie succeeds at being amusing and engaging for all ages, it's perhaps just as important that it also succeeds at being "by Schulz." ♦

Trailer


The Peanuts Movie
Rated G · 89 minutes · 2015
Official Site: www.peanutsmovie.com/index.html
Director: Steve Martino
Producer: Craig Schulz, Bryan Schulz, Cornelius Uliano, Paul Feig and Michael Travers
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Miller, Mariel Sheets, Alex Garfin, Francesca Capaldi, Venus Schultheis, Rebecca Bloom, Marleik "Mar Mar" Walker, Noah Johnston, Madisyn Shipman, Anastasia Bredikhina, Micah Revelli, A.J. Tecce, William "Alex" Wunsch, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth and Bill Melendez

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Peanuts Movie

Tags: ,

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Political Power
  • Political Power

    Jessica Chastain is a crafty, badass D.C. lobbyist in Miss Sloane
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Two and a Half Men
  • Two and a Half Men

    Moonlight beautifully examines the intersection of sexuality and masculinity
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Man and Wife
  • Man and Wife

    Simple, non-heroic love changes the world in Loving
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Native Heritage Film Series

Native Heritage Film Series @ Sandpoint Library

Sat., Dec. 10

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Scott Renshaw

  • Two and a Half Men
  • Two and a Half Men

    Moonlight beautifully examines the intersection of sexuality and masculinity
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Man and Wife
  • Man and Wife

    Simple, non-heroic love changes the world in Loving
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Full Moral Jacket
  • Full Moral Jacket

    A real-life war story is uncomfortably split in Hacksaw Ridge
    • Nov 3, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Wanna Rock?

    A slew of '80s glam favorites come to Wreck The Halls of Spokane Arena
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Big Themes

    Disney's Moana is the empowering and fascinating tale we need right now
    • Nov 23, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Desert Rage
  • Desert Rage

    Mad Max: Fury Road will restore your faith in action movies
    • May 13, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation