Whether you know it from the comic strips, home video or various other memorabilia, you know Peanuts. A lot of smaller, straight to video specials have come out but how would a modern, theatrical feature work out? That’s what we will find out with ‘The Peanuts Movie’.
Charlie Brown is a sad-sack little boy who fails at everything he tries. Most of his classmates don’t respect him, with the notable exception of his friend Linus. Everything changes for gool ol’ Charlie Brown when a little girl with red hair moves in next door and also into his classroom. He is smitten, but doesn’t have the courage to talk to her. When he unexpectedly gains some positive attention, it just might get him closer to breaking the ice.
Meanwhile, Charlie’s dog Snoopy and his bird friend Woodstock get into adventures of their own. Sometimes they meddle in Charlie’s life, but often, they embark on adventures fueled by their imagination.
In theory, this is a great introduction for young children into the world of Peanuts. It has all of the main characters and faithfully trots out their personalities/trademark lines and struggles. The big problem here is that it is too slavishly devoted to recreating the past without truly presenting a compelling plot or adding anything of note to the Peanuts universe. This is more like a series of vignettes tied together by Charlie Brown’s longing for the Little Red-Haired Girl and Snoopy’s battle with the Red Baron. Both of those ingredients are expected, but the latter has an odd-romantic angle stuffed in for Snoopy that seems unnecessary.
What this lacks compared to the older specials/movies is a story or clear objective. Whether the gang was having Thanksgiving together or traveling to Europe, they all had something to do. What we have here is the kids having relatively normal days. It would have been nice to have something else to work with aside from Charlie’s inaction. One wouldn’t expect this to be edgy in the slightest but a story needs conflict.
The visual style is noteworthy. There was a certain charm to the crude animation of yesteryear. Even recent specials have trotted out some more advanced imagery at the cost of it feeling like anything other than being mass-produced. No, this was lovingly and meticulously visually re-imagined with 3-D computer animation. Having grown up on the old style, that will always be this Examiner’s preference, but 2016 demands some updates and it’s hard to imagine a better aesthetic for most audiences. Thankfully, the characters don’t receive any wardrobe or other unneeded attempts at character changes to ‘keep up with the times’. One modern concession is the occasional, obnoxious insertion of generic pop music (thanks, Meghan Trainor) that feels a little sacrilegious.
Special features include: some sneak peaks.
‘The Peanuts Movie’ isn’t bad by any stretch. It’s a cute, harmless little tale that summarizes a lot of what many know about Peanuts. Someone who is completely new to this comic, would get a lot out of it. If is would have had the courage to push things forward even a little bit, that would have been something special for us who grew up with it.. Overall, you will be better off watching the older movies/shorts.
Rated G 88 minutes 2016