********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Steve Martino
Actors: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller
Artist Charles M. Schulz’s famous comic strip Peanuts is not easy material to adapt into a full-length feature film. This comic strip has a relaxed tone; it has a lot of running gags which, if you know them well enough, become more hilarious every time you encounter them; it has all these kids with different personalities that makes it more of a fun and enjoyable read than a page-turner. Animation movies nowadays are coming from scripts which are as good as page-turners, or at least aimed to be. The challenge for director Steve Martino and Blue Sky Studios was to find a central theme to The Peanuts Movie around which they could build the personalities of the leading characters, put in some of the running gags, and also manage to have a beginning and an end to the movie in its traditional form. A not so easy challenge, but it was wonderful to see that for most parts of the movie, Blue Sky Studios does live upto its reputation of being one of the top animation studios of Hollywood. It brings the spirit of the Peanuts comics in its movie with astounding thought and clarity; it creates a central theme that touches the heart and, in a way, acts as a tribute to Schulz’s work. While a non-reader of the comic strip may find the movie dull around the edges, it turns out to be a fantastic journey for someone who loves the Peanuts comics, and thankfully, I fall in the latter group.
Charlie Brown’s tight bond with bad luck is quite evident from the beginning of The Peanuts Movie; a fate that he is unable to get rid of, no matter how hard he tries. Somehow Charlie Brown still survives through the days, getting up everytime he falls, refusing to give up. But when the pretty Little Red-Haired Girl moves into his neighborhood, Charlie Brown wants to start afresh and make a good impression. Luck as always is not going to be on his side. At the same time, Charlie Brown’s friend and dog, Snoopy, is busy typing a story where he imagines himself as a fighter pilot, out to save a beautiful she-dog from the mysterious Red Baron. Both Charlie and Snoopy have the odds against them, but be assured, they will never give up.
The movie’s core writing team can make you feel a little nostalgic because it includes Charles Schulz’s son and grandson, Craig and Bryan respectively, who are also co-producers for the movie. Joining the writing team is Cornelius Uliano. The trio have taken a terrific approach in adapting the comic strip into a movie, gradually building Charlie Brown as a hero despite his obvious clumsiness and his propensity to ruin things. Director Steve Martino, who has worked previously with Blue Sky Studios on Horton Hears a Who! and Ice Age: Continental Drift, keeps a sense of calmness in the movie’s narrative, never indulging in any sort of drama that would be unbecoming for Schulz’s Peanuts. Charlie Brown is allowed to grow as a character, making him more likable and adorable as the movie progresses. His timid attempts at winning the Red-Haired Girl’s heart are juxtaposed beautifully with Snoopy’s more heroic flying stories.
The animation work is different than the ones we see nowadays that feel as good as real. In The Peanuts Movie, Martino and team have tried to bring a feel of the comic strip, which fans of Peanuts will love. The background scenery is kept largely similar to what we have seen in the comics; and to make it appear as if the scenes are being enacted inside Charles Schulz’s comic strip, there is no movement in the background even when the characters are moving. The artwork is really good, especially the bits that involve Snoopy’s day-dreaming. Music by Christophe Beck is wonderful and matches with the moods in the movie.
Voices given by the young actors are terrific, especially when it’s such a crucial part of turning a comic into an animated movie. It’s a new thing which is being added after all. Noah Schnapp voices Charlie Brown, giving him a nice, warm and yet meek personality. Hadley Belle Miller is a lively Lucy, a voice you want to hear and a character you want to watch, since her bickering is always going to be fun. Rebecca Bloom as Marcie, Venus Schultheis as Peppermint Patty, Alexander Garfin as Linus (terrific!), Noah Johnston as Schroeder, Mariel Sheets as young Sally Brown, along with a host of others, are all wonderful in their respective roles, and present our beloved characters in an admirable way. Work done by Billy Melendez in the past has been reused for the snarls and growls of Snoopy and Woodstock.
The Peanuts Movie is very different from the kind of animation movies we are now used to watching. There is no bitterness, no sorrow, no dangerous expedition of the kind that would make a child cry, something that is becoming frequent in animated movies as the target audience becomes a much broader one. For those reasons again, there would be individuals who would get bored by the movie’s calm settings, its slower pace and the ‘limited’ ambitions of its lead characters. But if you are a fan of Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest, then you know what a Peanuts movie should be all about, and that is what this movie delivers. A movie to relish for those who could never get enough of Charles Schulz’s work! And yes, Charlie Brown does get another shot to kick the football, but you will have to watch the movie to find out if he’s successful this time or not…