If anyone had told me they’d be making, a movie based off of The Peanuts Gang, I’d have said they were crazy. Loving references aside, I LOVE The Peanuts Gang! Originally a comic strip created by the late genius: Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts focused on child characters living in a normal suburban environment. The sarcastic and political humor, charming tone, loveable characters, and simplistic drawings, made this comic one which would influence many artists (Bill Waterson for example) from then on. Some of his stories were even adapted into television specials (usually holiday themed) like the universally loved: A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. According to Wikipedia, this movie’s production has been going on since 2006 (six years after the death of Charles). This is because Charles’ son, Craig, had an idea for a movie and he spent awhile fine tuning it with (get this) his own son, Bryan. After a while, they would get the funding they needed from Blue Sky Studios (who would produce and animate it) and 20th Century Fox (who would distribute it). Thank God Almighty that they were able to make this movie, as it is one of the most respecting adaptations I have ever seen!
The Peanuts Movie is directed by Steve Martino and written by Craig Schulz, Bryan Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano. Stars-Noah Schnapp, Alexander Garfin, Hadley Belle Miller, and Bill Mendez (archive audio for Snoopy and Woodstock). Premise-Down-on-his-luck Charlie Brown gets a fresh start when a new kid moves next door to him. At the same time, Charlie’s dog, Snoopy embarks on his own fantasy of epic adventure: shooting down the Red Baron.
Considering that most of this review so far has been about the production, I think it makes sense to talk first about one of the best trailers I have ever seen. Seriously, in a year where movie trailers are ruining many movies (Southpaw, Sponge Out of Water, Terminator Genisys), it is so refreshing to see a great trailer! By using the classic song “Baba O’ Riley”, and only explaining the basic premise, this trailer got me interested, and excited without spoiling anything major (just as a trailer should). Next, the animation. It is going to be a bit difficult to describe my feelings towards it. I’ll say it this way: some of the best animation that has ever been put to film, quite often, was the result of trying to emulate a style from another source material (if there was any). The Lego Movie is a perfect example. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (as well as the animators) wanted the movie to emulate the stop-motion of Legos, but with fully developed animation. And the result was some of the most high-powered, energetic, faithful, and impressive animation I have ever seen! The Peanuts Movie (hmm, those are very similar titles) followed that same philosophy. Ignoring how forgettable and dated most of Blue Sky Studios’ movies are, they undeniably have some of the most talented animators currently working in the industry. That fact has never been more prevalent than with this movie. The 3D animation, along with designs taken right out of Charles Schulz’s cartoons, made this movie look exactly like the comics, but with much more motion. Granted, some longtime fans of The Peanuts Gang may not like the 3D style they went for, or they would say the animation in the Peanuts television specials is more “comic-esque”, but I think what we got was perfect (they even kept the walk cycles, and expressions from the TV specials and comics).
Moving on to the story, which is also going to be difficult to elaborate on. Because the Peanuts comic never really focused on character conflicts, epic adventures, or thrills, rather: slice of life, and social humor, the stories were never that interesting, but that doesn’t make them bad. Actually, about 70% of this movie’s screen time is devoted to the main character, Charlie Brown. The remaining 30% is focused on a subplot involving Snoopy and his adventures (as stated in the premise). While the Snoopy subplot isn’t boring or pointless (heck, it provided most of the actual action in the movie), when the sequences of Snoopy having his adventures show up, it is kinda distracting, and the way the writers tried to tie it into the main plot felt really forced. I think they added this subplot for two reasons: to provide more entertainment for the younger crowd, and to fill out the runtime (which isn’t even the usual 90 minutes). These segments are still very enjoyable and chock full of references so I can’t bash the movie that much for it. The main plot is half Charlie gaining his confidence, and half love story. While both of these plotlines are pretty cliché and overused, the characters are so sweet and loveable, that they add the necessary charm needed to make these stories feel new. However, the best part about this movie’s screenplay is how faithful and loveable it is! Each character is exactly like I remember them, there are a copious amount of references and nods to the fans, and the moral of the story (despite the fact that you can see it coming a mile away), is delivered in such a unique way that I can forgive almost any faults. Even though the writing may not be as clever or ironic as a classic Charles Schulz comic strip or one of his TV specials, it still holds up very well (and let’s face it, it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to perfectly imitate Schulz’s or Bill Waterson’s ingenious writing anyway).
I want you to see this movie, really! It is one of the sweetest films I have ever watched, and the best part is that it didn’t fall into the “Trend Trap” so to speak. The biggest problem with most Blue Sky Studios’ movies is that they: cast unnecessary celebrities for the sake of raking in more of the “crowd” (Epic), use “hip” outdated lingo as most of the dialog (the Rio films), and write characters that will be dated and annoying within a month or two (nearly every one of their films). We even got a perfect example of this “Trend Trap” with 2015’s, Home. The outdated dialog and overuse of pop songs dragged that movie down. Since then, no one has been talking about it (compare that to Inside Out and you’ll understand why everyone loves Inside Out). However, The Peanuts Movie dodged that bullet and created a mostly timeless children’s film which definitely deserves an Oscar nod. The only “celebrity” in this movie (Kristin Chenoweth) doesn’t even have any lines, the rest of the cast are all voiced by children (which is something Schulz always wanted), and even when they have the perfect opportunity to add a pointless pop culture reference (there is a scene which slightly resembles Mission: Impossible) they avoid it. There are a few pop songs in this movie, but most of them are original, and none of them are overly pop-ish, so I can allow it. One of the most faithful (and competently made) film adaptations ever created, The Peanuts Movie gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A.