Nostalgia and CGI combine for The Peanuts Movie, an installment we weren’t exactly clamouring for but one that nonetheless will be greeted warmly. The gang are brought to the big screen for the first time since creator Charles Schulz’s passing in 2000. They have been granted new life through the direction of Steve Martino, who adds this film to his resumé after previous children’s animations Horton Hears a Who! and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Helping Martino are Charles’ children Craig and Bryan Schulz, who are credited with writing the script, and the producers are all too eager to emblemise the opening and closing credits with the Schulz name (one hopes altruistically).
The film pays a visual homage to the earlier chronicles of the Peanuts gang. The crude original cartoonish style is thankfully respected by the CGI animators. Is there anything more off-putting than seeing the cold computer upgrades to beloved classic children’s cartoons (looking at you ABC)? For those who, like me, haven’t seen a Peanuts TV movie recently, it’s easy to forget that – excluding the last two decades – Snoopy and the gang were quite ubiquitous. Martino has also decided to continue the tradition of casting real children in the Peanuts canon of media. Casting must have been quite a meticulous process as they truly give excellent voice performances, and this really gives the film an aura of authenticity.
The film centres on perpetual ‘loser’ Charlie Brown. Seemingly average joe Charlie is no doubt playing the noble hero in a mini odyssey. Put down again and again by life it is his dogged nature that has inspired generations. Making it a true reunion, his core friends are ensured ample screen time as well as a few appearances from the ancillary characters that won’t go amiss from the Peanuts faithful.
In this latest film Charlie Brown falls in love with the newest student, a mysterious and reserved red haired girl. Hapless Charles is quite love struck. Determined to turn over a new leaf for his new love, he sets out to prove himself to her in a variety of ways. Coming unstuck often due to either bad luck, or his own endearing nature, he endures with the help (and sometimes hindrance) of his friends and most of all faithful dog Snoopy. Snoopy is both aid and antagonist and clearly a catalyst for many of the children. Frequently the movie cuts to Snoopy struggling in imaginative aerial struggles against arch nemesis, the Red Baron. These segments mirror Charlie’s own struggles and help to segmentise a film which comes in danger of growing somewhat tedious with the repeated and at times easily foreseen follies of Charlie Brown’s efforts.
This film ultimately rests on the ability of the audience to empathise with it’s characters. The characters and motifs help us define ourselves and others. This is definitely a children’s film, yet undoubtedly parents will find themselves tapping their feet to Vince Guaraldi‘s iconic score and enjoying the reminiscent experience. There’s more than enough action and humour in this film to keep the attention span of the target audience, and this film could easily be the catalyst to introduce the Peanuts universe to a new generation.
Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is in cinemas from 1st January 2016 through 20th Century Fox.