THE PEANUTS Review
Director: Steve Martino
Genre: Animation, Comedy
Anyone who grew up in an American household, leafed through a Sunday paper, or celebrated a good old fashioned Christmas knows one thing to be true: the Peanuts are sacred. Audiences anticipating the film may have identified with Linus in IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN, waiting, knowing, and hoping for a miracle that would never come. Despite all possible odds, Blue Sky’s adaptation of Schulz’s opus is a total delight, an accomplishment for children’s entertainment and the animated medium.
Me too, Charlie Brown
When a new girl moves into town, Charlie Brown seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself as a “winner” and earn her affections. Charlie navigates through his usual pitfalls and disappointments with the unwavering support of “man’s best friend” Snoopy, who alternates between pressing Charlie past his shyness and disappearing into action-packed visions of a WWI dogfight (no pun intended) with his nemesis, The Red Baron. Also in the mix, of course, are Linus, Lucy, Schroeder, Sally, Pigpen, and the always-adorable Woodstock.
At times, PEANUTS is extremely successful in capturing the original tone of the comic – particularly through the animation. Animators toiled for years to translate the hand-drawn feel of the original comic to the 3D format. In one featurette, an artist discusses how they had to create dozens of 3D models for Snoopy alone due to the wandering placement of his eyes on his head when he turns in different directions. It would have been easy enough to fudge the process, but just looking at the film makes it clear that their hard work paid off.
Though decidedly less bleak than the source material, the characters look, feel, and sound like their two-dimensional counterparts. The Peanuts have always represented a higher level of children’s entertainment, and in this respect, PEANUTS is an outright success. Charlie and friends’ vocabulary is more akin to college freshman lit majors than middle American third graders. It’s hard to believe that this level of voice acting was produced by a cast of relatively unknown child actors. Alex Garfin’s performance as Linus was virtually indistinguishable from the beloved Christmas special – inflections and all – and Venus Schultheis brings new life to Peppermint Patty by actually sounding like a girl.
Anyone who wears flip-flops in the snow is no less than a total badass
In other moments, however, the film is less successful. PEANUTS suffers from the worst symptom of sequelitis: copy-pasted famous line from the original. Snoopy lays a big ol’ kiss on Lucy, which prompts her screeching, “Get hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!” And the audience is supposed to go, “OMG THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID IN THE OTHER THING THAT I LIKE.” This is the laziest form of adaptation in existence, particularly in a film that proves it can do better within minutes of making these lazy mistakes.
It’s not a kids’ movie without a grating pop anthem, and Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin’” does not disappoint – which is to say, of course, it does disappoint. If you want to do a music video tie-in, fine, but there is no reason for this song to appear in the movie. Its entrance is jarring, out of place, and is a giant zit of pandering on the face of an otherwise delightful film.
No amount of body-positivity can offset the karma for this one, Trainor
Despite some instances of catering to the tastes of a more juvenile audience, this is a Peanuts movie at the end of the day, and Peanuts movies are great. Adults and children alike will find something to enjoy in this sweet little story. If seeing the Peanuts gang reunited, underdog victories, or a love story between two animated third graders doesn’t get you in the theater, at least check it out for the adorable Snoopy noises (these are worth the price of admission alone). See it with someone you are currently holding hands with, or someone you would like to hold hands with someday.