When I heard there was going to be a new Peanuts movie, I was terrified. I love Peanuts. Like really, really love it. It has been a part of my life ever since I was small, and though not very popular here in the UK, I have managed to maintain this love for my entire 27 years. Why was I so sceptical? Well. Firstly, ‘modernised’ versions of my dearest childhood heroes have not washed well with me. There was Thomas the Tank Engine in 3D, Sonic Boom(the new Sonic games), and don’t even get me started on the HD series’ of The Simpsons. I know, everything has to move on, and everything has to develop. I just wasn’t sure that the Peanuts’ gang move to the big screen was going to a smooth or particularly necessary one. Secondly, as with most snotty people who know a lot about their favourite stuff, I didn’t want Peanuts to be thrown around, exploited and marketed to the point that the fantastic, original and heart warming gem Charles M. Schulz created to get lost amongst its hype.
Anyway like most things, I was wrong.
A UK release in the midst of Star Wars: The Force Awakens meant my much feared over-hype wasn’t really an option. Although posters and merchandise appeared, they were overshadowed by Disney’s multi million making machine(and that was OK by me).
Now, to the film. The company behind the Peanuts movie, Blue Sky Studios, tactfully threw in an Ice Age short animation prior to the film. Although unintentionally, it doesn’t bode well that the first thing you see is the companies’ biggest accomplishment : a tired old franchise. It just reminded me that I have never liked a movie animated by Blue Sky before, and made me shuffle in my seat with nervousness.
Let me just make it clear that the storyline isn’t going to win any prizes for originality. Charlie Brown’s pursuit of the little red-haired girl alongside Snoopy’s take down of the Red Baron is nothing new to those who have grown up watching Peanuts, and has been done many times before. That said, it is a solid and comforting story, entertaining and a good message of hopefulness that will pull in audiences of all ages. This isn’t what I was looking for from this film though, it was the visuals and loyalty to the original comic strip.
I was not disappointed. From start to finish, the movie is faithful from Schroeder accompanying ’20th Century Fox’ intro on piano, to Schulz signing his name at the end of the film. The little touches such as 2D references to the black and white strips, written sound effects (AUUGH! anyone?), and the trombone voiced adults are all tropes that I loved. Bill Melendez returns as Snoopy via recordings, and a hell of a lot of dancing goes on to the tunes of Vince Guaraldi(now remastered). The 3D transition is excellent also, understated, not too showy and just right. The characters facial expressions remain the same as in the strips and the combination of 2D and 3D landscapes are executed beautifully. The fact that they haven’t tried to be too ambitious with the animation and full throttle it into 3D means it keeps the original Schulz charm and nostalgia, providing a fresh, yet wonderfully familiar viewing experience. My only gripe with this movie, was the use of pop music in one sequence. It was a bit cheesy and kind of pulled me from the Peanuts experience we know and love. I believe this film’s soundtrack could have entirely been a piano score and that would have worked fine. That could just be me getting old though.
Back to the story, Charlie Brown’s pursuit of the little red-haired girl follows the normal trail of calamities and bad luck we would expect from our round headed hero. Snoopy and Woodstock’s day dreaming provides a nice dose of action and humour. All our favourite characters, Lucy and Linus Van Pelt, Sally Brown, Schroeder and Woodstock reappear alongside the other children. As always, it is a simple, no frills, smartphone free adventure in childhood, and so refreshing to see amongst a world where kids are growing up remarkably quickly. A little twist though. Charlie Brown actually comes out on top in this one. And about time too.
“You’ve really shown something new to me, you blockhead! You’re always full of surprises. Good ol’ Charlie Brown.” – Lucy Van Pelt.