When Blue Sky Studios, the makers of the “Ice Age” franchise, announced they were going to tackle the world of Charlie Brown and Co. with a CGI “Peanuts” movie, the expression “Good Grief” was heard loud and wide – the general opinion being: Why mess such beloved characters? But, 65 years after the comic strip began, and in the golden anniversary year of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “The Peanuts Movie” overcomes all the fears and concerns by sticking with its timeless foundation. This is classic 20th Century “Peanuts” – nothing modernized or updated – and it works beautifully.
“The Peanuts Movie” has a heart as big as the sky, thanks to director Steve Martino (who also crafted an honorable adaptation of “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!” for Blue Sky back in 2008), and three writers, including late “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan. It’s a genuine, all-new story, but it’s packed with all the classic elements – from the iconic music to direct lines and bits from the TV specials.
None of the characters have been altered in any way, including Charlie Brown himself, who’s kind, but a bit clumsy and often puts himself down for always, somehow, messing things up. He still can’t fly a kite or strike-out a batter. But when “The Little Red-Haired Girl” moves-in across the street and becomes his new classmate, Chuck instantly gets a crush on her and comes up with a plan to overcome his lack of confidence and become a “winner” so he can win her over.
“The Peanuts Movie” is consistently fun and inventive, with new layers that unravel as the film moves along. High energy, up-tempo scenes involving the gang at school and at play mix nicely with appropriate, quieter moments. There are plenty of nostalgic touches for parents and grandparents who have watched the TV specials countless times, and wonderfully colorful and friendly animation that a new generation of kids, who may be introduced to this world for the very first time with this film, will absolutely love.
And remember Snoopy’s WWI Flying Ace from “It’s The Great Pumpkin”? A parallel storyline to Charlie Brown’s girl troubles involves the fearless beagle and pal Woodstock writing (on a old fashioned typewriter) an adventurous romance novel of the Ace trying to capture the heart of his new love Fifi, and defeat his nemesis The Red Baron. I wish they had spent a little less time on this, but the animation in these sequences is spectacular.
“The Peanuts Movie” is about friendship and staying true to yourself – those themes hitting home surprisingly hard in a sweet and moving finale. On The Official LCJ Report Card, “The Peanuts Movie” gets an A-.
Running Time: 88 min.