The Peanuts Movie
Time/place: Noon showing at Krikorian San Clemente
Two reviews in a row? Two theater outings in a single weekend?? I must be Superman! Greatest part is, I saved the best for last :).
I grew up reading the Peanuts comic strip and saw the older cartoons, but I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan in the way that some are. When I heard of this new movie coming out, CGI animated to boot, I was fairly nonplussed. The first teaser trailer, though, showed off some beautiful animation, and the characters seemed to have retained their traditional charm, so I was interested. That interest only grew as more marketing appeared, until I reached a point of certainty that I’d be seeing it opening weekend.
And I just did.
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus… they’re all there, and just as I remembered them. This movie didn’t suffer from any dumbing-down or modernizing one bit, in terms of the characters and their stories. No cell-phones, no fart jokes. The Peanuts Movie is actually entirely reverent to its source material, and I thought that was so refreshing. There was an animated short before the feature started, set in the Ice Age world, and it was painfully bad. The fact that these folks put out a Peanuts movie that seems so far removed from their other work (in a good way) just made the refreshing nature of this experience all the more impressive. The story has a definite follow-through, but it’s still set up as many little vignette scenes, which helped add to its comic-come-to-life charm. It’s just as smart as the original comics in how it portrays its characters and in their sometimes very dry, adult vernacular, but it’s also just as sweet and poignant, too, never losing the heart that these stories have always had. This big ol’ sap was definitely a little teary by the end, and I loved every charming second that led up to that conclusion.
Performance-wise, these kids all sounded great. Of course, it’s a little more polished than the old cartoons, where the kids weren’t professional actors, but I didn’t bat an eye at any of these voices sounding out-of-place. The adults are still voiced by the “wah-wah” horn, and the producers actually used old sound recordings of the original voice for Snoopy and Woodstock… and it all just works wonderfully together without anything seeming forced or there for pure nostalgia.
Of course, the only departure this movie makes from the original material is the fact that it’s computer-animated, but that’s also one of its biggest strengths! The animation in The Peanuts Movie is gorgeous and noteworthy mainly because of how it feels — classic. My highest praise to the production team for their efforts, here, because while this is obviously CGI work, the style is such that the character-movment is a little stuttered, the facial expressions look hand-drawn, and they even found a clever and sweet way to include 2-D animation. At times, it almost felt like a stop-motion piece of work, with the expressions being changed out for one another and the movements restrained to certain simplicities. Heck, the characters even shuffle their feet out of sync with how quickly they’re moving, too, and there are a ton of other little details that I’ll let you discover on your own, because that was half of the fun :). If you’d like a little more in-depth analysis, though, this article does a great job of breaking down one of the trailers (so, no spoilers of course) and studying just how unique and interesting the animation-style is for this movie.
I saw a review that mentioned the Snoopy sub-plot moments (you’ll know what I mean if you see it) seemed to drag on a little, and were more for the younger crowd who really seemed to enjoy it, but I didn’t feel that at all. I thought it was actually a fun and great way to reinforce the overall story elements, and I don’t think they detracted from the movie’s pacing one bit. They could’ve been removed, certainly, in terms of being able to still tell the same story… but that they’re based in imagination makes me feel they have a very important place in the movie for even bigger reasons than just the story itself.
The Peanuts Movie is sweet, fun, and beautifully animated. I highly recommend it, not just as a fun family outing, but for those without kids, too. If you have a soft-spot for these characters, I can’t imagine this movie being a disappointment at all, but even for the rest of ya… just go and enjoy something charming for a little while, ya blockheads!