The Peanuts Movie — It’s A Good Film, Charlie Brown!

8 Nov

By James Shaw (The Wind up Geek) and Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

snoopy_and_charlie_brown_the_peanuts_movie_ver26J: In this world, there are many dangers geeks (like me) must defend themselves against. There are certain words that will set a nerd’s heart racing and cause uncontrollable giddiness. For some, that’s Star Trek. For me, it’s Peanuts.

The thought of Charles M. Schulz’s creation sends me back to a time when a CBS television special was the event of the holidays. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) are considered some of the all time best television specials. Not satisfied with TV, Schulz brought his creation to the big screen; Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977) is on my list of the top 100 animated films of all time. It is lucky that Blue Sky Studios, the animators of the Ice Age film franchise, won the rights to produce and release a Peanuts movie.

This old nerd just became a kid again.

E: So James proves he’s older than me in terms of taste. It’s a good one to suck up; I adore the team of Snoopy and Woodstock. They are the comedic duo that introduced me to this world and I love their antics.

But I also love the new characters introduced this century which carry on the tradition. Blue Sky’s opening short featured their signature mascot, Scrat, in a new piece titled, Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe. This short needs mentioning as it shows the studio is still keeping the Ice Age franchise alive. I enjoyed this mini-adventure because of the hilarity of this squirrel’s quest has moved onwards and upwards to where no other nut-crazed animal has gone before. It helps set the mood for the rest of the evening. The Peanuts Movie is developed to place the gang in a new playing field — to introduce a new generation to this comic strip’s melancholy charm and to be animated in CGI!

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Does the new animation style work? I think so. I loved how bits of the comic strip style are rendered  and with careful use of three-dimensional sets, the characters pop. We don’t need a fully rendered Charlie Brown seen from varying angles. I noticed there’s fur on Snoopy and oddly, not a lot of feathers are drawn on Woodstock. The textures are not over the top. I’m quite pleased with the artistic direction.

J: The colours are vibrant and to see everything I remembered from the specials all on the big screen was a pleasure. It was all familiar: the school, the children’s neighbourhood, the baseball field where Charlie Brown would strike out many times and even the pond the gang would skate on when it froze over. The animators must’ve been fans. I know there are those who set out with a look to the film in mind but it helps to complete what you envision when your animators love Schulz’s creation as well.

E: When considering writers Bryan and Craig Schulz and Cornelius Uliano are involved in penning this tale, they made sure that they are respecting this creator’s works in every frame that’s rendered. That includes a very well-intentioned tale about overcoming insecurities, especially for a precocious 8-year-old who discovers puppy love for the first time. Like in the television specials, there’s a mysterious redhead that he has an affection for.

J: The perspective of Charlie Brown changed in this film. Sure, he has his failings just like anyone else but the relationship he has with everyone (Pig Pen, Lucy, Frieda, et al) is closer than before. Through all his troubles he is accepted by the gang for who he is. They have their opinions that they express freely to the round-headed boy but he is still their friend. It should warm the hearts of children and of their parents.

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E: I suspect that includes people who feel like they have a bit of Charlie Brown in them. If this film was geared for the adult, I believe Walter Mitty is Chuck all grown up, still daydreaming and pining for people he adores. I’m thinking about the recent film since I’m more familiar with that instead of the book. Yes, I admit it, I enjoyed the Ben Stiller take on this age-old tale.

J: As good as this film is, there are still some problems to point out. I felt that in the first half of the film, they tried too hard to cram in as much character development as they could.

I also wasn’t pleased with how the story quickly transitioned from taking place in the winter to summer. A part of the narrative felt as though it was missing. But these are just trivial details, I noted.

The writers had to change things around to accommodate this film. Characters like Peppermint Patty, Franklin and Marcie both in the strip and in the TV specials lived in a different neighbourhood altogether. They also went to a different school then Charlie Brown and his friends. Linus and Sally were in the same class together in this movie but in the strips Linus is younger than Lucy and is not supposed to be in her class. Linus’ teacher though is Miss Othmar (who is not the teacher of Charlie Brown at all). Like any adult character you never see Miss Othmar in the strips or the specials. I suspect Othmar was used as the main teacher because she is remembered most from 1975 TV special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown. In that special Linus searches for the perfect gift to show his feelings to his teacher. I can understand most of this was done to make sure each character had enough screen time. Maybe a second viewing of this movie is in needed to locate other Peanuts characters like Shermy, 5, and Eudora.

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E: This film is released as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the 65th since the comic strip’s release. Had the studios waited for 75, I have to ask if a better impact can be made upon the Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millenials who grew up reading Charlie Brown and getting curious at this latest update. Probably. The timelessness of the material can be felt. I believe the youths of today will enjoy the hijinks of Snoopy and Woodstock as much as I did when I discovered this comic strip. Who does not want to thrill to their imaginative adventures in the skies above Paris and the Somme (I have always favored reading those over the other antics the Peanuts gang). Okay, so I’m biased…

J: One of the most laugh out loud scenes involved Snoopy on one his adventures with Peppermint Patty calling “Chuck” to come retrieve him. For comedy like this, I’m hoping someone will see the potential in another movie should this one break the box office. Because unlike some people I don’t have a Peanuts allergy.

3½ out of 5 Stars

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