Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Movie Review #338: "The Peanuts Movie" (2015)

Movie"The Peanuts Movie"
Director: Steve Martino
Rating: G
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Image Source
When a new red-haired girl (Francesca Capaldi) moves into the house across the street, Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) hopes it's an opportunity to make a good first impression and show her that he isn't the blockhead everyone thinks he is. He will do whatever it takes to prove that he is a winner. 

"The Peanuts Movie" is a full-length attempt to introduce the new generation of kiddos to the Peanuts characters, you know, the ones you probably grew up watching and reading. Gone is the rough hand drawn animation style as this film replaces them with shiny new computer generated graphics. The settings and backgrounds are all very clean and sharp, with new fun textures like fur added to characters like Snoopy and feather textures added to Woodstock. The characters all have a more 3D look now, with the exception of their faces, which still have that pencil-drawn quality we have come to know and love as fans. These graphics initially looked like they were going to be a problem, but somehow, the animators got everything to look surprisingly close to their cartoon and comic counterparts, just with a new animated style which I personally liked quite a bit.

The overall focus of the film is about Charlie Brown, voiced by Noah Schnapp, and his attempts to impress the new Little Red-Haired Girl, voiced by Francesca Capaldi, who just moved in across the street. Charlie Brown has a crush on her, but it's more than that. He wants to make a good first impression on her because she doesn't know him and how much of a blockhead he is. He looks at this as an opportunity to start fresh with someone who hasn't seen him fail a hundred times. This premise is rather adorable and one a lot of people will identify with because A) who hasn't wanted to start fresh with a clean slate?, and B) who hasn't had a childhood crush? I know we can attest to both of these being true, and though maybe we didn't want clean slates at 7 years old, the Peanuts characters have always been known for their wiser, sometimes more mature thought processes. We'd be remiss if we didn't recognize the voice actors first and foremost. We don't know how they did it, but the casting department was able to find a lot of seemingly identical or impressively close voices for many of the kids, including Linus, voiced by Alexander Garfin, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, voiced by Venus Schultheis, and Lucy, voiced by Hadley Belle Mille. As people who grew up watching the original TV cartoons, the voice work really impressed us.

There is a loooooooooooooooooot of nostalgic recall in this film, references to previous Peanuts TV specials, movies, and comic strips. Many of the best parts of those other source materials come together here in a reused manner, sometimes beat for beat and word for word in a self-referential manner, which adults will either hate or love. Some examples of this are the famous ice skating scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," Schroeder playing the piano while all the other kids dance during "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!," and several songs and quotes from both of these movies and many others. These rehashed lines and scenes will seem new to kids who are not familiar with the property and will most certainly stir up find memories for those who are familiar with them. PS: If you're not showing your kids Peanuts cartoons, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU!? If you're like us, people who grew up with Peanuts in their veins as kids, you might find these references and nods tedious, and BigJ certainly did from time to time. Me? I was never bothered by them. I looked at them as opportunities to allow parents and kids to connect, and memories of childhoods long since past to be rediscovered by those without kids. As a feature length film just under 90 minutes, unfortunately, this movie does feel a little long, and by the 7th time Snoopy goes into his WWI Red Baron fantasy, it starts to feel a little repetitive. The young kids of the target audience will no doubt love Snoopy and Woodstock's adventures, though.

I can't deny I smiled the entire duration of "The Peanuts Movie." When we left the theater, I felt something both familiar and new in my heart, something that made me both happy and nostalgic. This film works with its source material, not against it, never trampling its classic characters, its iconic scenes, and its quotable lines. This is a cute treat for kids and adults like. The kids of today will hopefully long for more Peanuts shenanigans, and the adults of yesterday will reminisce about simpler times. It also ends really strongly with a wonderful message parents will appreciate and kids will look back on as Charlie Brown is an admirable character everyone should aspire to be more like, despite the fact he is often the butt of the joke.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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