Something for everyone, but not everything for anyone.
The Peanuts Movie is about the Peanuts Gang. In the movie, they do a lot of things. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. Okay, nine hundred eighty-three words to go! That and other classic Peanuts gags help gloss over a movie that does the best it can to pay homage to its traditional animation roots while taking advantage of the cinematic benefits of being the latest example of modern computer animation.
The movie itself will annoy Peanuts purists while providing a G-rated outlet for families with small children everywhere. And, honestly, that’s probably all one could hope for. The last Peanuts movie was released 35 years ago, and there’s honestly no reason to expect The Peanuts Movie to be anything like the four Peanuts motion pictures that preceded it.
With 50 years of Peanuts comic strips to provide inspiration, the writers, who include cartoonist Charles Schulz’s son and grandson, selected two storylines that would bring back memories to most Peanuts fans: Charlie Brown and the Little Red-Haired Girl and Snoopy as a World War I flying ace. The former works great as a love story in a movie, and somehow they managed to make Snoopy’s storyline follow a similar trope as well.
The Little Red-Haired Girl, who was the object of Charlie Brown’s affection every time she appeared in the comic strip or on TV, gets brought into the story when her family moves across the street from Charlie Brown. Standard Charlie Brown antics ensue, and the movie checks all the boxes one would expect in a Peanuts movie in that regard. The ending couldn’t bear a standard Charlie Brown result, because movies just don’t do that anymore, but as long as you’re not using the movie to teach a child about how to deal with what will become a lifetime of failure, it’s nice to see a different outcome for ol’ Chuck.
The secondary storyline is fine if you know nothing of the Peanuts Gang, but it makes the movie too Brown-centric and wastes the time spent developing the other characters. Thankfully Bill Melendez is still alive and generally did a good job with Snoopy and Woodstock’s voices, including several trademark expressions. Unfortunately, I could sense several occasions when someone felt the need to have Snoopy have more human reactions, like Astro did on the Jetsons.
After Snoopy gets kicked out of school a second time (which appeared to set up a recurring theme that never happened again), he encounters a typewriter and begins writing a love story. The female lead in his story is a flying ace bitch named Fifi, who’s quite the badass pilot. Peanuts if nothing else is known for its traditional values, so it was nice to see the movie promote that women can actually do things besides fawn over men.
The rest of this subplot feels very un-Peanuts-like, with Woodstock’s assistants (they actually have their own names, but the movie doesn’t say which ones they are) acting more like Minions than fellow yellow birds. I guarantee that small children will love them, and I suppose that’s what really matters.
I can’t get too worked up about the many plot inconsistencies (such as Peppermint Patty and Marcie, whose last name they got wrong, attending the same elementary school as the rest of the Peanuts Gang) because that’s what happens when big screen adaptations of comics occur.
Be sure to stay for the credits, which show various panels from the original strip, not to mention an excuse to listen to more Vince Guaraldi. There’s also a post-credits scene that concludes a pointless recurring bit from the movie. More co-duh than coda.
There hasn’t been any new Peanuts material for 15 years, outside of a few commercials on TV, and frankly, you have to take what you can get if you’re a Peanuts fan.
Peanuts will hit theaters Nov. 6th, 2015.