From its humble beginnings as a comic strip in the 1950s, “Peanuts” has always been a heartfelt and dazzling cartoon series. Created by the late Charles Schulz, the beloved blockhead Charlie Brown and his buddies have delivered a number of timeless television specials over the years.
Now, Charlie Brown and the gang are back for their big screen debut in “The Peanuts Movie,” a tremendously satisfying entry in the “Peanuts” saga. Director Steve Martino, working with a script written by Schulz’s son Craig Schulz, grandson Bryan Schulz and Cornelius Uliano, captures the old-school aesthetics, tone and feel of the cartoon series by wisely keeping things simple and sticking to the source material. It is essentially a big screen adaptation of the original Charlie Brown the world knows and loves.
With that said, “The Peanuts Movie” doesn’t break any new ground or shake things up in any way. This is meant to pay homage to the series that Schulz conceived over half a century ago. The creative team behind “The Peanuts Movie” does not attempt to modernize the film by giving the kids iPads, smartphones, hover-boards or any other modern gizmos. The world of Charlie Brown is instead comprised of landlines, typewriters, pencils and kids (gasp!) playing outside instead of being cooped up indoors.
Newcomers and those who never found “Peanuts” to be interesting in the first place should look elsewhere. Adults who grew up with “Peanuts” and (the lucky but few) children who were exposed to “Peanuts” will find plenty to love here.
The plot is simple enough; a red-haired girl moves into town, Charlie Brown falls for her and, with the help of the likes of Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder and other regulars of the “Peanuts” universe, Charlie Brown sets out to prove his worthiness of the new girl and everyone else.
The voice actors of “The Peanuts Movie,” all child actors, are excellent in bringing the characters to life. The characters in the film sound and behave like they did in previous iterations: Charlie is as clumsy and unconfident as ever, Lucy still manages to be gruff but loveable, Linus still loves his blanket and Schroeder can still play the hell out of that piano. The iconic duo of Snoopy and Woodstock steal the show, as they always have in any “Peanuts” medium. Although Snoopy’s (imaginary) subplot involving a love interest drags on and feels like filler, Snoopy still manages to be as loveable and hilarious as ever.
It’s refreshing to see a film tackle dormant, classic material and get it right. With its care and respect to the great Charles Schulz and what he started, it’s a love letter to old school animation, one that adults will find to be a trip down memory lane, and one that will enthrall kids with its unique and sweet formula.