Film review: ‘The Peanuts Movie’ keeps it sweet and simple

Film review: ‘The Peanuts Movie’ keeps it sweet and simple
Photo Credit: Fox Star Studios
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Charles M Schulz’s comic strip about the low-on-confidence and high-on-inadequacy Charlie Brown and his motley crew of the Peanuts gang gets a 3D animated version. Directed by Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!), The Peanuts Movie is charming in parts and high in nostalgia value for generations that virtually befriended characters such as Snoopy, Linus (with his security blanket), Lucy and Pig Pen.

Schulz’s super-popular cartoons of this community of children ran from 1950 to 2000. His son Craig and grandson Bryan Schulz, along with Cornelius Uliano, have written the movie’s screenplay. Those familiar with the strips will recognise regular characters such as Peppermint Patty, Snoopy’s alter ego the Flying Ace, the Red Haired Girl, the yellow bird Woodstock and the Beethoven-obsessed Schroeder. Recurring themes, such as Charlie Brown’s numerous failed attempts at kicking the football held by Lucy, his infamy for being unable to fly a kite and the kite-eating tree make minor appearances.

Martino uses computer animation and cartoon style drawings that evoke Schulz’s line work to create a simple world in which a school holiday means that all the kids came out to play together. Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) is an accident-prone pessimist disheartened by his inability to approach the new girl in class. He is besotted by the Red Haired Girl and goes to great lengths to impress her: he enters a talent contest but has to forsake his act to help his sister salvage hers. He writes a book report on behalf of the Red Haired Girl when she goes away to be with her ailing grandmother, but it gets destroyed. He confesses at the school assembly that he is undeserving of the genius status accorded to him. Around him, members of the Peanuts gang are either sympathetic and supportive or opportunistic and cruel, but compassion, kindness and selflessness are qualities to admire.

In between Charlie Brown’s angst, Snoopy is sitting atop his kennel writing a story about a World War 1 dogfight between the Flying Ace and the Red Baron.

The Peanuts Movie is like many daily cartoon strips stitched into one 88-minute film. It assumes that audiences would either be well acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the characters or young enough not to question them. However, the former group, of which I am a member, is left feeling nostalgic but underwhelmed. What is heartwarming is the simplicity of the story and the storytelling with a faithful adherence to the original ethos. Lucy charges just five cents for psychiatric counsel, Snoopy uses a typewriter, and flying a kite successfully is considered an achievement.