When I first heard that “Peanuts” was being brought back to the screen in CGI and 3-D, I was worried. I thought, good grief, they’re going to ruin these characters. As a lifelong fan of both the strip and animated films, I didn’t want to see Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang reimagined, I wanted the timeless classics.
After seeing “The Peanuts Movie” this weekend, I learned I didn’t need to worry. When I heard the first notes of Vince Guardaldi’s “Linus and Lucy,” I knew we were in for a nostalgic treat. If I could describe the movie in one word, it’d be “charming.”
I found myself smiling throughout the film as we saw familiar scenes recreated on the big screen — Snoopy as the World War I flying ace fighting the red baron and attending a school dance as Joe Cool, Lucy giving advice for those cold, hard nickels at her psychiatrist stand, the kite-eating tree, Linus snuggling his trusty blue blanket and pondering life’s big questions with Charlie Brown at that brick wall we’ve seen on countless occasions.
With the help of Charles Schulz’s son, Craig, and grandson, Bryan, director Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”) succeeds in a faithful adaption of the beloved comic strip and the film is a love letter to the “Peanuts” gang.
The driving plot of the film centers on our favorite “blockhead” Charlie Brown once again pining away for the Little Red-Haired Girl, who this time moves across the street from the Browns. Charlie Brown sees this as a chance to have a clean slate with her. Finally, someone who doesn’t know of his past failings — buying a pitiful Christmas tree, failing to kick a football time and time again, never being able to keep his kite in the air. But, of course, he wouldn’t be Charlie Brown if things went well, so we see his good intentions throughout the movie derailed by his constant bad luck.
While CGI wasn’t how I’m used to seeing the gang, the animators stayed true to Schulz’s style, going back at the more than 18,000 strips for reference. Martin0 said the complexity of the animation was getting it to look so simple. The crew had to develop a technique that allowed them to keep the “soft wiggle” of Schulz’s work while translating characters in a 3-D world.
There are some small changes — all the kids, except for Sally, are in the same class. Even Peppermint Patty, Marcie and Franklin, who went to a different school in the “Peanuts” universe. It makes sense tough, in a 90-minute movie, there wouldn’t be time for everything. But, it works well and keeps the core gang all together.
There are some Easter eggs for long-time fans including mid-credits scenes involving Lucy, a Blockhead and a football, a group of Christmas carolers, the odd dance moves that we were accustomed to, Snoopy’s voice from specials long ago and traditional animation for Charlie Brown’s inner thoughts. In other words, something for every member of the family.