THE PEANUTS MOVIE review by Mark Walters – a perfect love letter to Charles Schulz

THE PEANUTS MOVIE review by Mark Walters – a perfect love letter to Charles Schulz

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There are few things from my childhood more precious and treasured to me than Charles Schulz’s comic strip characters from the Peanuts series. I watched all the TV shows, read the strip religiously, even had plush Snoopy and Woodstock dolls. I adored those characters, and still do. When 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky had announced they were going to make a PEANUTS movie, in many ways fans found it more worrisome than exciting. It was said they were going to make the film CG and in 3D… and keeping in mind the squiggly line drawings of Schulz, trying to imagine CG versions of Charlie Brown and Snoopy was next to impossible. Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS) produced the new movie with Steve Martino (ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT) directing. One thing that was said repeatedly regarding this production was that the material would be handled in a respectful manner, and the end result would honor the work of Schulz. Feig had stated “Snoopy will not be rapping, no one will be twerking, we’re in good hands.” I’m very happy to say the man wasn’t lying, and THE PEANUTS MOVIE ends up being a treasured treat for fans of the classic characters.

The story opens by re-introducing us to the Peanuts gang one by one. Charlie Brown is (still) a well-meaning but clumsy kid who never seems to have things go his way, and his faithful dog Snoopy tries hard to support him while always trying to be one of the gang in the process. Charlie’s sister Sally is in love with his best friend Linus, who never goes anywhere without carrying his security blanket. Lucy is the cocky girl in school who thinks she knows everything, and is always quick to call out Charlie Brown for his faults. Marcie and Peppermint Patty round out the key classmates, which also include dirty Pig-Pen, piano-playing Schroeder, and Franklin and Violet-Gray. When a new Little Red-Haired Girl moves in across the street from the Brown house, Charlie sees this as an opportunity to make a new friend, someone who has no pre-conceptions about him or awareness of his faults. But if he can’t get past his own shyness, he’ll never even properly meet her to find out if things will go his way. Overlapping this story is Snoopy’s imaginary adventure in which he flies around atop his doghouse fighting the evil Red Baron, and trying to save a beautiful beagle named Fifi… a tale that has some odd similarities to Charlie Brown’s present challenges.

In many ways THE PEANUTS MOVIE is just more of what we’ve already seen, only incredibly more polished and succinct. Some of the movie feels like a re-telling of classic Peanuts stories, while other parts feel fresh and new. The overall effect is a solidly entertaining and loving tribute to the work of Charles Schulz, and something that even casual fans will appreciate. The 3D CGI versions of the characters still have a roughness to them to make it feel much like what you’re used to seeing, only more realistic in a way. The filmmakers even incorporate subtle 2D animation throughout in the form of thought balloons or flashbacks to previous events. I liken the style to how WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? took classic animated characters like Bugs Bunny and added a fine sheen to them for the big budget universe of that film. These are the same kids you remember, looking roughly the same, just much more stylish and sleek.

The basic story of the film, Charlie Brown pursuing The Little Red-Haired Girl, provides enough opportunities for all the characters to interact and have their own little moments. Sally is always fawning over Linus, Lucy gives psychiatric advice to Charlie Brown, there’s even a moment where the kids are all signing “Christmastime is Here” together. Perhaps the only awkward aspect of the script is the overuse of the Snoopy and the Red Baron story, which the movie is constantly referencing back to. Whenever this happens, it kind of brings the main story to a halt. While I love Snoopy, I think the Red Baron scenes could have been easily compartmentalized into one segment in the middle of the film, instead of a repeatedly overlapping tale that interrupts the main story. I also think kids today may not follow or appreciate this side of the movie, as the war references may be lost on them and the fact it’s all in Snoopy’s head just makes it a little confusing. But at 93 minutes, THE PEANUTS MOVIE never wears out its welcome, and moves along at a nice pace. I also greatly appreciated the fact that there’s never any mention of modern technology in the story. No computers, no cel phones, no cars (well, there is a school bus)… in a way it gives the film a timeless quality, which may be the best part about it.

Most of the voice work in the film is done by actual children, with the one exception of Kristin Chenoweth providing the sounds of Fifi’s dog whimpers. The voices of Snoopy and Woodstock are actually provided by the late Bill Melendez, the man who directed the original Peanuts cartoons, as Melendez had recorded several test sessions for both characters. That simple aspect adds a layer of quality to the production, and helps it really feel like an extension of the classic universe it’s paying homage to. THE PEANUTS MOVIE may or may not connect with modern day children the way it did with long time fans, but it is a great family movie with good messages, and perhaps one of the most effective and sincere love letters to vintage material we’ve ever seen on the big screen. Be sure to stick around until the very end for a fun gag.

PEANUTS opens November 6, 2015

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.