There’s not much going on story-wise in “The Peanuts Movie.” Like the comic strips that ran in newspapers for fifty years the plot is boiled down to its essence. In this case Charlie Brown is in love with the new girl in town. Add in some hijinks, a moral and faster than you can say, “Good grief, Charlie Brown,” you have an amiable update of the classic cartoon.
In this Paul Feig-produced movie the herky-jerky animation of the cartoons we grew up with is replaced with state of the art computer imagery but all the other familiar elements are comfortably in place. Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy piano score tinkles on the soundtrack, Linus’s blanket still provides security, Lucy’s has attitude and Charlie Brown is still a heaving mass of preadolescent insecurities.
When a new family moves in across the street from Charlie (Noah Schnapp) he is instantly smitten by his new neighbour, the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). “Maybe she won’t know about my imperfections,” says Charlie as he tries to figure out ways to impress her. Meanwhile Snoopy (Bill Melendez from original archival audio from the original television shows) has fantasy battles with the Red Baron for the affections of a pretty beagle named Fifi.
While Snoopy engages in aerial loop-de-loops to win Fifi’s love, Charlie Brown does some loopy stuff of his own. “Why is it everything I try turns out wrong?” he sighs. In the end, however, he learns that doing the right thing and showing compassion are more important than showing off for recognition.
For many people happiness will be a new look at Charles M. Schulz’s most famous creations. Feig and Steve “Horton Hears a Who!” Martino have been an extremely respectful to the source material, making a movie that feels like Schulz’s strip with a twenty-first century makeover.
The gentle humour of the TV specials is firmly in place—even a “wild” chase scene at a talent show is slow down to kid-friendly speed—as is the old-school values of the strip—project confidence, don’t slouch—but most importantly the spirit of the Charlie Brown remains intact. Schulz’s stories were always more about heart than actual plot and that is amply on display here but a shortage of story means the film occasionally feels padded out with Red Baron versus Snoopy sequences and music montages to reach the ninety minute mark.
Despite Charlie Brown’s myriad insecurities “The Peanuts Movie” is an extremely confident reworking of Schulz’s beloved creation.