The Peanuts Movie: Film ReviewCast: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller
Director: Steve Martino
There's an old school nostalgia that swathes the heart-warming Peanuts Movie like a cozy blanket.
And while the cynical, brought up on a diet of post-modern ironic CGI animated fare that clocks a wink at its audience, may scoff at its endearing cuteness, the effect of seeing Charles M Schulz's characters writ large and with due reverence on the big screen is nothing short of a nostalgic treat to start the new year off.
It's a simple story - Charlie Brown finds his life upended when the little red-haired girl from the cartoons moves over the road from him; determined to make her acquaintance, Charlie sets out on a life-changing journey. Meanwhile, Snoopy's engaged in yet another fight with the Red Baron....
At its most basic level, The Peanuts Movie is a melange of episodic moments stitched together with the flimsiest of threads, but the messages within are honest and earnest. Charlie Brown remains the blockhead he has always been, but his loveable loser schtick will strike a chord with many youngsters who see elements of themselves within.
Sure the message to be true to thine self and to act with integrity is nothing original, but the lack of preachiness goes a long way to making this spoonful of sugar easily slip down.
Mentions of The Great Pumpkin, the kite-eating tree, that mound where so many humiliations have occurred are lashed together in a web that sees Snoopy taking on the Red Baron once again and Charlie Brown trying to get a win in life.
Flights of fancy come quick and fast in this flick that revels in its old school charm and yesteryear elements.
There's nothing wrong with the family values it espouses and the animation certainly holds true to the Charlie Brown we've seen on TV - even if this Charlie Brown is likely to resonate more with those who've grown up with the TV specials and the strips. In many ways, this Peanuts Movie is not what you'd expect from films these days - there's no smart nods to the audience, no clever meta-plot and no push for the origin of Charlie and Snoopy's friendship. It's good, old-fashioned Peanuts that works as a shapeless narrative and crucially, feels like a series of episodic panels and sketches thrown together in a 90 minute meshed film.
There's a nice parallel between Snoopy and his endless Red Baron adventures trying to save Fifi, his imaginary love and Charlie Brown's pursuit of the little red-headed girl. While the Snoopy sections may drag on a little, the Charlie Brown quests for recognition and over-coming his own awkwardness to speak to her have volumes of charm and sweet innocence that a younger audience will latch onto.
The 3D works nicely and is more about presenting rounder characters (though ironically, a lot of Charlie Brown's chums are sidelined with little on screen interaction) rather than a bells and whistles showiness. The film-makers are wise to Brown's continual string of losses, a running gag of the panels and a truism of his life, but are smart enough to also realise that he needs a minor win for audiences to follow on the journey with him.
But it's the moments of the past that stand out - when Brown daydreams he does so with black and white panels that Charles M Schulz so lovingly crafted. It's a beautiful touch, an innocent moment which legions of his fans will sigh a relief at rather than let out an exasperated "Good Grief".
As a trip down memory lane and with Schulz's good intentions, this family film may provoke a few moments of apathy for the older members of the audience and perhaps a younger end brought up on savvier fare, but its faithful nostalgia and simpler yet reverent greatest hits story-telling is a welcome breath of fresh cinematic air.