The Peanuts Movie - 2015
The Peanuts Movie - Released November 6, 2015. Directed by Steve Martino
The Short Version: Charlie Brown and crew are updated to fit into a 21st century CGI world, with a funny comedy script that uses running gags and some new concepts to allow Snoopy and Charlie to both reach their goals.
Review: The Peanuts Movie
This isn't entirely the traditional Charles Schulz' Charlie Brown. Director Martino and writers Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano have tamped down the darkness (but not the angst) of the Peanuts comic strip. Here, the misadventures of Charlie Brown simply can't end in brutal failure by the time the credits run, after all, this is a G-rated feature film primarily intended for children.
This isn't an abandoning of Schulz' emotional aesthetic as much as it is working in a different reality than that of the daily comic strip which had to leave episodes open-ended (and the characters usually frozen). It also is a recognition that Charles Schulz (November 26, 1922 – February 12, 2000) is no longer available to manage the property.
In this story, both Snoopy and Charlie Brown are on an Ulyssesian journey to battle and conquer: Snoopy must fight and defeat the Red Baron, and Charlie Brown must face up to the Little Red-Headed Girl and his attendant paralytic fear, both daunting tasks.
In between these two story threads (which crisscross and influence each other) there are minor episodes involving the cast of characters from the strip. Anyone familiar with the strip will recognize many lifted gags and brief homages. Schulz' actual artwork pops into the screen on occasion:
The movie borrows from other places, too, with a touch of Calvin and Hobbes showing up and also Minions (and, during the WWI dogfights, aerial dynamics that look like the 1927 film Wings).
Regarding Minions and Calvin and Hobbes, it can be said they were influenced by Schulz' long-running strip, which would be difficult to stop as it has pervaded American culture through the newspapers, TV programs and hand-drawn animated movies since the 1950s when it debuted, a pop-culture phenomenon that generated billions of dollars in licensing and publication money, and in the process had imitators who used Schulz' basic design of a world in which small children operate as kids but often switch into frames of reference that belong to much more mature individuals who have mature insights and dilemmas.
That's all here on the screen in The Peanuts Movie, too, along with 21st century CGI animation which doesn't always succeed in marrying together Schulz' simple 2D drawings with a 3D virtual world, but succeeds more often that may have been thought possible.
Snoopy and Charlie Brown are the two main characters of the film, but brief, individual segments of Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally and the rest of the cast appear during the course of the plot. If you are intimately familiar with the strip and knowledgeable about how the characters developed and changed over time, it will be a bit of a shock to see so many loose-threads being tied together a bit closer than ever happened in the strip. Schulz' subtlety isn't entirely gone, but it is faded enough to allow for a more critical view of the characters.
For example, Lucy's sidewalk psychiatric business is exposed as a more mercenary operation than was previously seen. In Schulz' cartoon world, the 5-cent psychiatric judgments exposed Lucy as emotionally compromised, not necessarily greedy, though that was sometimes also brought into the gags. (One particular thing accomplished by this film is that it shows how carefully Schulz' strip was done, that he provided the characters with a delicate balance that isn't heavy-handedly turning the characters into 'types,' something this movie veers much closer toward doing.)
In another departure from the strip, the balance of friendship between Charlie Brown and Linus is diminished in favor of a stronger bond between Snoopy and his master, until they are in effect, as far as the goals of the plot are concerned, doppelgangers. Perhaps the filmmakers are reserving Linus for a stronger role in some later film. Whatever the case, Linus' newspaper-world prominence is not evident in this cinematic one.
Perseverance is celebrated and is equated with bravery in the tale; in Charlie Brown's emotionally taunt world, that's just as well, since it amounts to the same thing.
File under: Warren Piece: Leo's Toy Store
Original Page June 12, 2016