The Peanuts Movie is easily one of the best family films of the year, preserving the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s classic series and making them accessible for a whole new generation.
Taking much inspiration from past storylines, the story finds Charlie Brown, just as awkward and weak as ever before, trying to prove himself to his peers and win the affection of the new kid in town, the Little Red-Haired Girl. Each section of the plot realizes various episodes from past comic strips, appropriating an episodic function that allows for a lot of content within its duration. The major subplot takes Charlie Brown’s faithful dog Snoopy – equally the primary character of Schulz’s legacy – on a journey of his own, as he expresses his inner fantasies of being a WWII era fighter pilot, dueling against his enemy The Red Baron to gain the heart of Fifi, a female poodle.
The primary cast of characters are just as much themselves as ever before; Charlie Brown’s compatriot Linus still holds his blue blanket, Lucy doles out advice and chases after boys out of her league, Schroeder is obsessed with the compositions of Beethoven, and Sally tries to be as much of an adult as humanly possible. Its good that the film’s creative personnel opted to keep the sensibility of the original Peanuts gang in place, as it just as easily could have tried to update things for a contemporary approach.
In taking Peanuts back to the screen, the most obvious difference is the weaving of CGI animation into the mix, which adds another visual dimension yet comes off seamless in its intent. Director Steve Martino, of previous Blue Sky Animation films (Ice Age: Continential Drift, Horton Hears a Who!) is smart to make every sequence feel like it was inspired by one of the classic television specials, with a heaping amount of color and intricate design. The element of Schulz’s original drawings also comes into play, through the use of interior thought bubbles that Charlie Brown envisions throughout.
It’s rare to see a family film these days appropriate such a classic, traditional approach, both with regards to the animation and the narrative itself. Parents of young children are more likely to be engaged with the story, through pure nostalgic purposes, but it’s a good change from what we’re used to seeing from family entertainment these days.
For being an exceptionally entertaining film for all ages, that serves as a reminder of one of animation’s most popular series to date, The Peanuts Movie is an excellent, fun, and overall pleasing films of the year.