Director: Steve Martino
Starring: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, Alexander Garfin, Venus Omega Schultheis, Mariel Sheets
Written by: Brian Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Ulioano and (based on the comic strip) Charles M. Schulz
Running Time: 88 mins
Release date: 21st December 2015
When something that is so close to your childhood is remade, you always enter with a level of trepidation. You’re never sure what new filmmakers will do with all those familiar memories. Will they update it with modern references? Will they change the characters so they become almost unrecognisable? Will they ruin the things that made it work when you were young? With The Peanuts Movie, I needn’t have worried.
Charlie Brown has fallen in love. A new girl has joined the school and instantly made an impression with the young boy. Yet he doesn’t have the nerve even to talk to her. So with his trusted, faithful dog, Snoopy, Charlie Brown must grow more in confidence. Meanwhile, Snoopy decides to write his own love story, in which he is an ace fighter pilot battling The Red Baron in order to win the affections of Fifi, a poodle.
Starting life as a comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts grew in popularity, marked by a successful cartoon series in the 60’s, in which Charlie Brown, Snoopy and their friends all came to life, with the Halloween and Christmas specials still watch regularly today. Now the same studio behind the Ice Age films have brought the series into the 21st century, by computer animation. Yet director Steve Martino has made the right decision to leave what made the series so famous just as it was.
Everything you remember about the show is here. Charlie Brown’s clumsiness and Snoopy’s coolness. All the characters, Lucy, Linus, Pigpen, Peppermint Patty, are all present and correct, while the introduction of the new, little red-head girl, doesn’t intrude too much (apart from driving Charlie Brown forward). Even Vince Guaraldi’s famous music pops up, instantly bringing a massive smile to my face.
Among the familiarity, is the film any good? The answer is yes. It is brimming with charm and wit. Peanuts was never a laugh-out-loud comedy but a gentle examination of life through the eyes of children. That tone and mood is intact here. We watch as Charlie Brown goes through his life with growing embarrassment, as he tries his best to impress the new girl, while smart, fast quips are thrown out, like reading the cartoon strip.
Where the film does slightly lose its way is during Snoopy’s extended battle with the Red Baron, which does interfere with the flow of the main plot line. Perfectly fine as a throwaway sequence but we keep dipping back into that world just a little too often. That said, there are genuinely funny moments in which I found myself laughing out loud.
With all this gentle reminder of a simpler time, you do question whether this is a children’s film. The humour is far too high-brow while the slapstick moments are not as frequent as in most animated family films. The screening I attended, the children seemed very quiet while the parents giggled their way through the film.
If you are a fan of the series or the comic strip, then you will lap every minute up. If you take the children, you might find them a little restless to really appreciate it. Yet there are very few films that I leave with a huge grin on my face. This was one of them.