SBox Recommends: The Peanuts Movie (Movie Review)

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I didn’t know what to think when I first saw the trailer to The Peanuts Movie. Off the bat I knew the art-style was a fantastic fit for this kind of property. That and Peanuts is so beloved and classic that no bad film could possibly ruin it. However, you have to be prepared for the possibility that this could flop hard. It’s one of those movies that are hard to get a gauge on unless you see it first. You can’t just tell if it’s going to be good from the trailers.

So with little to do and nothing to lose I went on opening day to a nearly empty theater to see it. It’s incredible how in just the first couple minutes all my worries disappeared.

Synopsis

The Peanuts Movie is a CG animated adaptation of the classic Charles Schulz comic strips.

During the kids’ holiday break a new kid, Little Red-Haired Girl, moves to the neighborhood, right across the street from Charlie Brown. Upon first seeing her, Charlie Brown quickly develops a crush on his new neighbor. He then makes it his mission to impress her and maybe even introduce himself. Unfortunately, everything he tries seems to go horribly wrong.

Writing

The plot is perfectly simple as you’d expect. Falls directly in line with what Charlie Brown fans are used to, and also doesn’t focus entirely on the central plot. This movie is mostly about the misadventures of these characters; misadventures which just happen to lead the story along.

For this movie I think this was implemented masterfully. It feels just like any Charlie Brown special, only longer. In fact, it’s more like watching a bunch of Charlie Brown specials. Those watching this movie for nostaglic purposes will easily get into the film’s use of homages. Some are handled subtly, while others are fully explored. From the familiar football kicking scene to the 5 cent psychiatry sessions, every Peanuts trope you could think of is touched upon.

Probably the most memorable of these self-references was with Snoopy vs Red Baron. This is handled as a series of scenes scattered throughout the movie; each in response to how Snoopy views certain situations. This takes up about 15-20 minutes of the movie. You may immediately think this would become a hindrance after a while, but it actually steals the show.

The tone of the movie is very wholesome and light. This never tries to be a deep or fast-paced film; it simply is its own thing. It takes its time telling the story, takes detours whenever necessary, and never goes for the easy jokes. No dumb gags or poo humor exist here. Charlie Brown cartoons had always adopted word-play, irony and slapstick as its leading humor types. Every joke builds- even the slapstick- and some even require some brief amount of thought. The humor is what makes this film great for all ages.

Probably its most refreshing element is its message. Without telling you what it is (though its easy to figure out), I thought the message was not only great for kids, but also puts the entire franchise into perspective. When you don’t think too deeply about what Charlie Brown is about, you may miss the entire point. It debunks the thought process that the series is mainly about the sufferings of one kid for comedy sake. That’s all I’ll say.

It’s also worth mentioning that this film makes the smart move of not modernizing the Peanuts. The most futuristic device shown is a TV, and that’s for the best.

Animation

Quickly I would like to touch on how genius the animation and art-style are. I’m sure you know how the movie looks by now, but it’s worth praising how Blue Sky Studios managed to blend old with new. Not only does it make 2D animation look modern, it’s beautiful to look at. It’s not CG for the sake of being CG either.

Referring back to the Red Baron scenes, which benefit the most from the art-style, it’s the perfect way to make our characters blend with realistic settings. You almost think Snoopy’s flying through actual clouds and over real mountains.

Acting

The Peanuts Movie doesn’t have an all-star cast to list off. All characters in the film are either seasoned voice actors doing children’s voices or children themselves. The only name worth mentioning fully is Bill Melendez. That name may be familiar to those who watch the specials, and that’s because he’s the original voice of Snoopy. These are merely voice clips as Melendez passed away seven years ago, but the use was fantastic as well as nostalgic.

As far as acting goes for the rest of the cast, the voice acting was spot-on. I’m sure most people aren’t going to tell the difference between the original voices and the ones here, but many of the performances are near-exact. They were probably very selective in this department in order to make Charlie Brown sound close to what he does in the cartoons. Same with Linus, Lucy, Sally and so on.

Thankfully, they don’t sound as phoned in as they sometimes do in the cartoons. (You know, because children). I’ll take a guess in saying much of the cast were ten years old and over.

Music

Not too much to say for musical accompaniment. Most of the tunes are either re-recordings of Vince Guaraldi’s original music, or lifted directly from the specials. You’ll no doubt recognize some of the iconic tunes like Schroder’s piano riff. There are at least two modern tracks in the film, one from Meghan Trainor and the other from Flo-Rida. I believe both played during the credits, though. (Just in case you’re worried).

Overall

I may have only seen two animated films this year, and there’s still one big release coming out soon, but I think this is going to be the animated film of the year. What could’ve easily been a shameless cash-in ended up being one of the most charming, heart-warming, and funny movies you’ll see this year. I can’t think of much wrong with it, either. Maybe it’s not the most impactful film, but it didn’t have to be. This was just a really fun family movie.

Score: 8.7/10

Recommendations

This movie is ideal for families (obviously). Kids are bound to enjoy themselves whether they’re familiar with Peanuts or not. At the same time, adults, teens and parents will also take to the film’s nostalgic elements and humor. Basically, if you have even a passing interest in this film, go see it. I’d say it’s theater worthy, but some may find it better as a rental. Depends on how much you want to see it.

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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