If “lovable loser” were in the dictionary, the Chicago Cubs and Charlie Brown would appear right under it. Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the Peanuts squad are in full force. Charlie Brown is still the unluckiest of the unlucky, whether attempting to fly a kite, strike a batter out, or kick that doggone football.
When a new little “Red-Haired Girl” moves across the street from him, Charlie is determined to become a new man in hopes of landing her. With help from the ever-versatile Snoopy, who is fighting is own battle in trying to finally take down the Red Baron, Charlie takes steps in getting her attention. But, his best step may be to just continue being Charlie Brown.
For whatever reason, Charlie Brown and Peanuts as a whole just feels very Thanksgiving-ish to yours truly. If someone asked me for whatever reason to play holiday association with what holiday comes into my mind when seeing Charlie Brown and friends, I’d always say Thanksgiving, despite all of the specials for each holiday. Maybe it is the fact that Peanuts, and The Peanuts Movie, is somewhat like a Thanksgiving gathering with a ton of people. Holiday talk withstanding, the new Peanuts movie is likely to play out as one would expect. Depending on the person, that could be an amazing thing, or a meh thing.
Peanuts is very simplistic and basic from multiple fronts. There’s a notable old-school approach that reflects the effort made by director Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift, Horton Hears a Who!) and producers to keep The Peanuts Movie in the mold that creator Charles Schultz brought to the comic strip and holiday features. This is seen most clearly in the animation, where less is more with the way characters walk, express emotions facially, and interact with their environment. Think of its CGI as a flipbook filled with sketches. And of course, the Peanuts theme is alive and well, along with other notable series sounds and soft jazz tracks.
On another front, the simplicity of the story doesn’t work as well as the animation and technical/audio production does. While I wasn’t expecting a story like, say, Inside Out or The Lego Movie, I am legitimately surprised at how uninterested—and at some points, bored—I was with the film’s plot, which feels very reliant on nostalgia at times in lieu of anything really entertaining. And, that goes for both of them actually, as Snoopy’s plot and CB’s are loosely integrated with each other without adding to each other, aside from the occasional chapter title that Snoopy uses when writing his book that also doubles for where Charlie is in his efforts. Perhaps I am too critical, but for a runtime just north of 90 minutes, it isn’t a good thing to start wondering how much time is left. Maybe it was the lack of laughs. And maybe I just need some kids to improve the viewing experience.
Voice work is of importance with any animated feature, but for something such as Peanuts, that importance takes on more weight because so many people have the characters’ voices ingrained in their craniums. As such, any shoddy work would certainly be derided by long time fans, especially because the film is banking on nostalgia. Luckily, there isn’t a weak link voice wise among the cast. Seriously, the voice work is stellar. Whether these kids were born sounding exactly like the predecessors who voiced Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, and the rest, or coached to sound exactly like them, it really is an impressive achievement for these youngsters to get it exactly right.
Yours truly’s five cents on The Peanuts Movie is that it is good nostalgia for fans featuring excellent production, and a nice, if super safe and sometimes mundane introduction to kids unfamiliar to these characters. A little disappointing, certainly, but not a complete whiff like Chuck on a football kick.
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