Genre: CG Animation
Director: Steve Martino
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Mariel Sheets, Bill Melendez, Venus Schultheis, Francesca Capaldi, Hadley Belle Miller, Madisyn Shipman, Noah Johnston, Rebecca Bloom, A.J. Tecce, William Wunsch, Alexander Garfin, Anastasia Bredikhina
Runtime: 1 hr 33 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: http://www.peanutsmovie.com
Opening Day: 10 December 2015
Synopsis: Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved “Peanuts” gang make their big-screen debut, like they’ve never been seen before, in state of the art 3D animation. Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle – and flying ace – embarks upon his greatest mission as he takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis The Red Baron, while his best pal, Charlie Brown, begins his own epic quest. From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.
It may be a very different world in the 65 years since Charles M. Schultz first published a Charlie Brown comic strip, but there is warm comfort knowing that the gang of Charlie Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Franklin, Snoopy and all the rest remain the same. Oh yes, for those nervous to find out what Blue Sky Studios would do with a computer-animated, 3-D version of Schultz’s vision of small-town America, rest assured that this fifth feature-length ‘Peanuts’ outing is delightfully earnest to the spirit of the original characters as well as their beloved holiday television specials, no small part thanks to a script written in part by the son and grandson of its creator.
Good ol’ Charlie Brown, as neurotic and insecure as ever, is still trying to fly a kite while thwarting the kite-eating tree, failing to kick his football, and making a fool out of himself in school. Oh, he is also trying to get the Little Red-Haired Girl to notice him, and much of the film focuses on his battle with his own self-doubt, which is also responsible for his many self-defeating attempts to woo his eternal object of affection. Meanwhile, Snoopy continues to be Charlie Brown’s foil, projecting an aura of confidence and competence as he imagines himself a World War I flying ace with his avian sidekick Woodstock, fighting the Red Baron and pursuing a beautiful fellow flying dog named Fifi.
That extended flight of imagination comes as Snoopy acquires a typewriter – not a MacBook, mind you – yet again another example of how the filmmakers stick with tradition and not modernity. Linus still grips his blanket. Schroeder still plays Beethoven on his toy piano. Lucy still retains her temper, her psychiatric stand, and yes her five cents charge for advice. It isn’t just these touchstones that director Steve Martino and his team of animators have lovingly preserved – from the characters’ hand-drawn expressions such as Charlie’s sighs, Sally’s smiles and even Lucy’s exasperated yells, to their poses, it is evident that great care has been taken to make sure that this big-screen journey is one that feels familiar.
Yet, in keeping to the spirit of the characters as well as the tone of Schultz’s source material, ‘The Peanuts Movie’ ultimately forces its viewer to settle in to a somewhat different aesthetic than say the ‘Ice Age’ movies or even the ‘Cosmic Scrat-trasosphe’ short that precedes it. Here, the humour is quaint, so rather than laugh-out-loud moments of zany hilarity, be prepared to settle in for something much more measured in its amusement. In choosing nostalgia over novelty, one must also be prepared that the story is nothing amazing or even complex, but instead a simple one founded on the small anxieties that a real child might experience on a daily basis; in fact, it is more than happy to meander, weaving character vignettes, childhood wisdom and Snoopy’s hallucinations around a loose plot of Charlie Brown’s hard-luck quest for love and friendship.
Simplicity was always part of its charm, and the filmmakers here have by and large stuck faithfully to that philosophy. Yes, it says something when the most familiar bits – made up of Snoopy’s imaginary aerial pursuits of the Red Baron – from modern-day feature animations come off jarring and quite out of place in a movie that otherwise deliberately chooses to offer much more low-key and old-fashioned entertainment and seemingly well-known themes of youthful angst, love, and embarrassment. And in keeping with this (as the producers did for ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ and ‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’), the characters here are all voiced by actual kids, rather than name actors or adults with childlike voices.
Most of ‘The Peanuts Movie’ plays like a love letter to Schultz, that finds at its heart an sweet, syrupy combination of humour and tenderness. That’s not to say that it simply rests on old laurels; indeed, there is ingenuity in how its makers have managed to weave it all together, even to the use of thought bubbles to revisit old gags such as Lucy infamously pulling the football away from Charlie Brown before he can kick it. Oh yes, the Blue Sky team have chosen to honour the ‘Peanuts’ legacy in ways both big and small, while introducing a whole new generation of audiences to the classic characters that will feel as comforting as Linus’ blanket to their parents and grandparents. Like its predecessors, ‘The Peanuts Movie’ is destined to be a holiday classic, and we mean that in the best possible way.
(A familiar but no less delightful blend of humour and tenderness, ‘The Peanuts Movie’ will in its deliberately old-fashioned aesthetics strike a sweet, warm and comforting chord with its beloved fans)
Review by Gabriel Chong