Halloween is long gone but Christmas came early this year—as the real heavy hitters of the season begin making their way to a movie theater near you. As odd as it may sound, I would have to say The Peanuts Movie sneaks into the conversation of “the most enjoyable movie of the year,” as it manages to instill just enough nostalgia to make the film both familiar and noticeably different from most of good ol‘ Chuck’s past adaptations. The new CGI animation brings the lovable characters to life while maintaining the aura and charisma of the comic strip—yes, it even has that oh-so-close-maybe-next-time-Charlie-Brown moment.
Directed by Steve Martino, The Peanuts Movie is the first feature-length adaptation of the classic comic strip The Peanuts in over 35 years. It brings back the entire cast of characters many have grown to love. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Woodstock, Sally, Patty, the Little Red-Haired Girl, and others all make appearances and look better than ever, despite being older than our parents.
In the film, Charlie (Noah Schnapp) finds himself repeatedly in questionable situations that do not necessarily portray him the best light to all of his peers—such as when he knocks down the fence surrounding the neighborhood baseball field—who both like him but find him rather clumsy and unspectacular. Nevertheless, Chuck maintains his can-do attitude and continuously pushes himself to keep getting up, no matter how many times he falls. Suddenly, he sees an opportunity to finally begin remaking his image when a new girl (the Little Red-Haired Girl) moves across the street from him and enrolls in his school. Infatuated by his first spurts of love in his young life, he attempts to make a good first impression. Unsurprisingly, the plan backfires, ending his chance to begin remaking himself, or so he thinks.
Charlie struggles with the quintessential emotion of childhood and the teenage years: insecurity. Even in the face of adversity, however, he perseveres until he reaches his goal, often encountering pure moments of laugh-out-of-your-seat joy that will bring back memories of the show in the older generation and imprint themselves onto the minds of the younger ones. One such moment is when a red monoplane wreaks havoc in a most unexpected way.
Snoopy plays a starring role, mostly by drafting a story on an old typewriter and consequently imagining the events of said story. This side plot mirrors also involves a search for love, with Snoopy, a pilot in World War I, searching the mist for his beloved. His constant skirmishes with his archenemy, the Red Baron, add a layer of intricacy to a film set mostly in a small town. It also allows Martino to show off an impressive set of visuals. The landscapes and dogfights Snoopy engages in truly provide a breathtaking escape from the real world.
The Peanuts Movie sets itself apart from past installments of the Charlie Brown saga by maintaining its nostalgic perception of a worriless world of old (dial phones still exist), while providing a striking repertoire of visuals that capture every show of emotion of the characters. We see the characters as we have never seen the before and it looks beautiful.
That being said, the film also lacks some freshness, especially when it comes to character front. In an interview with USA Today, writer Craig Schultz, son of the strip’s creator, said that due to the large number of returning characters, no additions were possible. Moreover, many of the themes and events in the film have been done before, making the returning fan feel almost let down.
The film manages to infuse enough originality to overcome its distinct fallbacks plot-wise but it still makes for a genuinely enjoyable product. Although it could use more action and dynamism, the one-liners and shenanigans, especially those of Woodstock and Snoopy, provide a lift for the audience, just as Chuck would say: that’s just the way it goes.
Featured Image By 20th Century Fox