Don’t let the 3D and the Dolby Surround sound fool you. This is still the same ol’ Peanuts that creator Charles Schulz first gave us more than 60 years ago. Lucy still wears saddle shoes, the kids talk to each other on corded phones, and there’s never a single mention of wifi or selfies or Snapchat. The Peanuts Movie may not have been entirely necessary, but there’s still something about it that feels like a warm homecoming– a reunion with your childhood pals… and the kite-eating tree. And the famous World War I Flying Ace. And phrases like “Good Grief!” and “Blockhead”.
The film is the brainchild of the folks at Blue Sky– the studio behind Ice Age (as we’re reminded before the film even starts, courtesy of yet another tedious short film with Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel). While there wasn’t really any way they could have given us a landmark film, there were plenty of ways they could have screwed it up; thankfully they didn’t.
Taking place over the course of the six months between winter and the last day of school, The Peanuts Movie centers, naturally, on Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp), who is just as down-trodden as ever– that is, until the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi) moves in across the street. Suddenly being down-trodden is the least of his concerns; he can now add insecure and bumbling to his list of personality quirks.
From the school-wide talent show to the winter dance, Charlie Brown stumbles on all kinds of new ways to embarrass himself in his pursuit of grade-school love. At the same time, his trusty dog Snoopy (voiced by the late Bill Melendez, from the Peanuts archives) is having struggles of his own, as he goes up against the mighty Red Baron while also trying to win the hand of FIfi (Kristin Chenowith).
The screenplay by Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan, along with first-timer Cornelius Uliano, is as familiar as Linus’ warm blanket. There are no grand departures or re-boots here; this is Charlie Brown 101. The story is cute, and the characters are just as you remember them (including, perhaps most importantly their voices). The only difference, really, is that the animation is computer-generated, and Charlie Brown’s lone squiggle of hair is now sticking out of his forehead in 3D.
Director Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who!) did a commendable job bringing The Peanuts Movie to life. The art is eye-popping (though most of that credit, presumably, goes to veteran art director Nash Dunnigan), and the story flows along nicely, minus a few jarring hiccups when the story switches over to Snoopy’s travails with the Red Baron.
By and large, The Peanuts Movie is a charming journey back to a time when the funny pages were actually funny, and it’s as dependable as Lucy yanking that darn football away from Charlie Brown at the last second. Good grief.
Worth the 3D glasses?
There are a couple snazzy flying sequences with Snoopy and the Red Baron, but they’re nothing that you need 3D glasses to enjoy. And since the only other “benefit” comes in seeing Charlie Brown’s forelock sticking out, I’d suggest you take a pass and just go the 2D route.