The sweet and irrepressible Charlie Brown makes his theatrical debut in The Peanuts Movie, popping out of the pages of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strip and right into audience’s hearts once again. This modernized adaptation honors what made the classic series so great with its simple story and inclusion of many famous Peanuts gags, but also manages to be it’s own thing by appealing to fans both old and new. Fans of the classic comic strip and animated specials will also appreciate Bill Melendez as Snoopy and Woodstock through the use of archival footage.
The setup is a familiar one to Peanuts fans: Charlie Brown has fallen smitten with The Little Red-Haired Girl, the new girl in town and his newest classmate. Now, against all odds, Charlie Brown must muster the strength and daring to actually talk to his crush, while his trademark melancholy and shyness always seems to get in the way of things. Good grief!
Meanwhile, the typewriting Snoopy, his beloved beagle dog, is caught up in love and adventures of his own. Snoopy continues his (imaginary?) adventures as the famous World War I Flying Ace, battling the devious Red Baron while simultaneously trying to win the heart of Fifi (the poodle from Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown) through daring acts of heroics and other silliness. His only companion, the diminutive little Woodstock, always by his side.
Those worried that Schultz’s characters wouldn’t survive the modernization process can rest easy. The spirit of Schulz is alive and well and this adaptation, perhaps owing to the intimate involvement of Craig and Bryan Schulz, his son and grandson, does its creator justice. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Franklin, Peppermint Patty and the rest translate surprisingly well in the 21st century, a testament of the power of Schulz’s forward-thinking comic strip, with a story as simple and sweet as any Charlie Brown story.
You have to admire a modern story that includes children doing things like simply reading books, especially one famous gag that has Charlie Brown writing a book report on ‘War and Peace’, which is mistakenly referred to as Leo’s Toy Store by Warren Peace, or just see them dutifully working on homework. Even the anachronistic use of wired telephones and typewriters in a world where all of that is practically behind us.
The film may look modern, but it is lovingly sprinkled with those quirks that made the comics pleasingly smart and lovable by using a combination of CG animation and cel-animation tropes straight from the comic strip. This comes as a pleasant surprise and looks absolutely terrific, allowing the story and characters to visually connect with viewers in way that straightforward storytelling never could. References straight out of the comic – and animated specials – include displaying onomatopoeias, thought balloons, and even movement lines.
Overall, The Peanuts Movie should sit well with the kids as there’s more than enough high flying adventures from Snoopy and Woodstock, and plenty of sophisticated humor from the classic series to please their parents and longtime fans alike. Unlike so many of its animated brethren, here is an adaptation of a classic series done right, clearly by people who love and care about the source material, and have delivered it safely and intact for a new generation to discover for themselves. Unlike Charlie Brown’s inability to kick Lucy’s football, this one is a game-winning field goal.