RELEASE DATE: 01/01/2016
RUN TIME: 1HR 33MIN
|MICHAEL J. TRAVERS|
The story is familiar and beautifully similar: Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) has his life thrown into a tizzy when a Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi) joins his class. No amount of advice from his best friend Linus (Alex Garfin) or psychological nurturing (or torturing) from nemesis Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller) can help him work out what to do, so he turns to his trusted dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) to give him guidance. With his heart on his sleeve, Charlie Brown throws caution to the win in the hopes he can win her heart in return.
It would have been easy for the filmmakers to modernise or water down the wholesome values of Schulz’s creation, but much like Dreamworks did with their wonderful adaptation of ‘Mr Peabody and Sherman’ last year, director Steve Martino and the screenwriting team have gone the extra mile to keep the soul of the comic intact. Charlie Brown is still the most morose of philosophers, and his classmates are all still as distinct as they’ve always been. It’s even easier now to see how revolutionary and progressive they actually are, especially when race and gender are the last thing on the minds of any of these children. The filmmakers have also kept the film modest, not launching into a complex narrative but keeping it direct and simple (though Snoopy gets his own epic adventure in his imagination, fighting his eternal aeronautical enemy the Red Baron), which does render the film a tad episodic. The through-line is there, but each trial and tribulation Charlie Brown faces seems like a chapter in a book. However, if you come with some knowledge of the original material, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Charlie Brown is still the most morose of philosophers, and his classmates are all still as distinct as they’ve always been.
The film is also a visual delight, Martino’s team going to great lengths to capture the same distinct quality of the animated TV specials from the 70s. The characters and landscapes are rendered in gorgeous commuter graphics, but the hand-drawn quality is far more important, and all the expected visual gags are there where you expect them. The film is also filled with easter eggs and nods to characters and famous images from the comics and TV specials (what Peanuts film would be complete without a dance in the gym with all its distinct and unusual dancers). The voice cast is also on point, all age appropriate and full of colour and life. Noah Schnapp in particular is a delightful Charlie Brown.
While it’s not a rousing cinematic experience like the more noteworthy animated films of the last few years, it’s the modesty and respect that makes ‘Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie’ such a delightful experience. It reminds us that cynicism isn’t the only way, that there are good people and good values out there in the world, and they start from the unencumbered innocence of children. The filmmakers have gone that extra mile to make sure this one was worth the wait and doesn’t squander the privilege it has to play with such iconic material. Charlie Brown is in safe hands, and while they might not be the most adventurous hands, it keeps the soul of Charles M. Schulz intact - and it’s all the better for it.