"Popularity Gained Through Intellectual Achievement is Fleeting. You Gotta Cash In While You Can."
I think this is probably the best “Peanuts” adaptation we’ll get for a long time. Two out of three of the writers are the sons of the strip’s creator, and the storylines seem to be lifted from abandoned scripts written by the man himself. We’ll get to the story in a bit, but on the onset this is a faithful adaptation that inherently understands its subject matter, and it’s wonderfully supported by Studio Blue Sky’s animation. Blue Sky can be hit or miss with its products, but the effort with “Peanuts” shines in every moment; the textures and depth the computer animation gives to the characters and the backgrounds is startling in its specificity, and it draws attention to aspects of the characters that have never merited my attention before (ever wonder what material Lucy’s dress is made out of? Looks like a silk-poly blend). The characters are lively and true to form, even though the solidity of the body designs looks strange to me as someone who’s used to the 2D style in previous films. The studio seems to always look for new ways to animate things we’ve seen millions of times before, and they largely succeed.
Now, about that story. Or should I say stories. There are too many of them. The larger plot of the film centers around Charlie Brown trying to work up the courage to be friends with the Little Red-Headed Girl, who’s just moved to town and is new to their class (we finally get to see her face, which is cool, but she still doesn’t have a real name, which is less than cool), but his insecurities and disaster-prone nature constantly get in the way. The movie is then broken up into five or six smaller stories within this larger theme of trying to be better in the name of love, as well as a side-story about Snoopy writing a story about the WWI Flying Ace facing a similar issue (except his lady is a fighter pilot named FiFi who’s been whisked away by the Red Baron). None of these plots fit with each other well enough to make the movie feel cohesive, BUT any one of them if expanded and explored could have served as the plot of the film instead of the tired romance plot they decided to go with. “Peanuts” is a simple strip, and the stories featured are often simply told. This film feels frenetic and overcomplicated, and the effect on the audience was clear; the children in my theatre were restless and distracted, which is not how your target audience should feel when watching your film. This is not a writing issue, but a storytelling issue; the film never paced itself in a way that let the previous moment sit. It was constantly barrelling onward, trying to stuff as many old references into the film as possible without considering how they were being used.
I feel if I were five and this was my first look at “Peanuts”, I wouldn’t get what the fuss was about necessarily. But it’s NOBODY’S first look at “Peanuts”; Charlie Brown, Snoopy and company are inescapable in American culture (possibly world culture), and keeping that in mind, this new “Peanuts” is an inoffensive, sweet homage to the original set of stories that inspired the film. I would have liked to see certain characters get more screen time (Snoopy takes up HALF the film, and Charlie Brown another third), but there are still plenty of moments that reminded me why these movies keep getting made. And that’s all “Peanuts” needed to do.
A spiked root beer float! It’s the WWI Flying Ace’s drink of choice.
-Drink whenever a stock fixture of the original strip is used (the kite eating tree, Lucy’s psychiatric booth, Joe Cool, etc.)
-Drink whenever a line is dropped that can be recognized from another “Peanuts” movie
-Drink when a disaster occurs around Charlie Brown
-Drink whenever someone talks to Snoopy. Woodstock counts.
-Drink when someone says Charlie Brown’s name
This review was written by Hollis Beck (Krissy Pappau). "The Peanuts Movie" was produced by Blue Sky Studio, Feigco Entertainment and Peanuts Worldwide, and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film is rated "G" with a run time of 93 minutes.
Special thanks to my patrons Caroline Kittridge Faustine, Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin and Antonia Beck! Your support helped make this article happen!