Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Peanuts Movie

THE PEANUTS MOVIE (Steve Martino, 2015)

THE PEANUTS MOVIE takes Charlie Brown and friends from the comics pages and traditional 2D animation to the 3D computer-animated realm, albeit with a look that is not drastically different with what is familiar from Charles Schulz’s work in strip, TV, and film form. The animation has sort of a plush toy quality about it rather than the sleek, hyperrealist plasticity that is often associated with textures in the medium. Those warmer surfaces allow THE PEANUTS MOVIE to be approached as a security blanket rather than some flashy novelty.

The film revisits many of the touchstones found in other PEANUTS properties. Charlie Brown remains a regular, angst-ridden boy who nevertheless sustains eternal hope that his day to be in the spotlight may yet arrive. His loyal dog Snoopy imagines pursuing the Red Baron in his biplane. The other kids view him as unexceptional but good-hearted. He wishes desperately to impress the little red-haired girl who moves in across the street.

The visual style goes hand in hand with the earnest, humane tone the film strikes. THE PEANUTS MOVIE is funny in a gentle way, but it’s also attuned to the fears and insecurities that children and, for that matter, adults carry. Charlie Brown fails and gets embarrassed. He worries about how things might go for him. Through it all, he displays a fundamental decency that others notice, even if they criticize and laugh at him sometimes. THE PEANUTS MOVIE recognizes these crucial aspects of Schulz’s work and renders them in a format considered more accessible to kids today.

3D animation is really the only thing that differentiates this from other PEANUTS ventures. Story-wise it feels like a greatest hits compilation rather than something new, but it’s a modest charmer that benefits from sticking to what we’re used to rather than being modernized.

Grade: B

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