Despite the spiffy CG animation, The Peanuts Movie isn’t some kind of weird re-imagining of Charles Schulz’s beloved characters – it’s a continuation. And it’s delightful!
Everything that Charles Schulz did to make Peanuts a classic comic strip is in The Peanuts Movie: Lucy’s inflated self-appreciation; Snoopy’s imagination; Pig Pen’s sweetness (hidden under the usual accompanying cloud of dust); Sally’s avarice; Schroeder’s love of Beethoven; the kite-eating tree; Charlie Brown’s utter lack of talent as a pitcher, and so on.
With all the various idiosyncrasies Schulz gave his characters, you’d think there’d be no room for a story if a movie was to include them all. You’d be wrong.
It’s not a particularly complex story – after a few minutes of presenting the Peanuts gang and letting us reacquaint ourselves – the movie moves into its two main arcs: Charlie Brown has a new neighbor, a little red-haired girl, and he’s smitten but is too shy and insecure to approach her; Snoopy faces the Red Baron – a task made more urgent by the Baron’s capture of the love of his life (a poodle named Fifi).
There’s nothing overwhelmingly hilarious here, but the film has a gentle wit that sparks chuckles with its wit and warmth. The movie doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel – the character design is faithful; the characters behave as we remember; there’s even a goodly amount of the original Peanuts music included (nobody gets the Peanuts gang like Vince Guaraldi did).
The animation is first-rate and the script (which was co-written by Schulz’s son and grandson) manages to remain familiar even as it goes into new situations. Director Steve Martino is obviously a fan of the previous 2D movies and TV specials – he never pushes too hard, and he always emphasizes characters over jokes.
The Peanuts Movie is warm and fuzzy without being annoying. Sparky would be proud.
Final Grade: A+