I better start by mentioning that despite being really excited for this, I’m more of a casual Peanuts fan.
I’ve only seen a few of the specials all the way through and it’s not my favorite comic strip (that would be Far Side); however as the years have gone by I’ve gained a great appreciation for Charles Schulz and his iconic work. I bring this up to assure you I’m not just a fanboy and if you are a big fan (because the hardcore Peanuts fans tend to be really hard to please) I don’t know if this review will convince you. The plot is about Charlie Brown trying to improve himself to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl… and that’s really about it.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4.5
So as you can read in that opening paragraph this is a VERY simple story. In fact ‘The Peanuts Movie’ can at times feel like it is meandering about with little focus. The film can basically be divided up into a number of vignettes. I know that’s a common complaint and praise for ‘Peanuts’ in general so that may be a good news for some but not others. For the most part it worked for me. Many times a slower pace can help you feel more like you’re in the world of the movie. I honestly think the kids will be engaged, especially during the Snoopy air fights. The voice acting is quite impressive as they continue the tradition of casting real children for the Peanuts gang. Not only do they all perform the roles very well and completely believable but they all sound just right. While I’m sure if you were to do a side by side comparison of the old voices with the ones here you could definitely tell a difference but none stick out as “oh that doesn’t sound at all like Linus!” As for Snoopy and Woodstock, it’s exact… for a good reason, all of Snoopy and Woodstock’s vocals are taken from previous recordings from the old shows and specials. What’s especially impressive about this is that it never feels forced, like they had to write the scenes around sounds. It probably helps that there’s a ton of material for them to work with. All of this is just a good example of the attention paid to detail in this film, however the true expression of this would have to go to the visuals.
MY GOD I LOVE THE VISUALS HERE! Again I know I’ve talked about this in an earlier article but it bares repeating, the visual design is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s animated with CGI but all of the characters are made to still look 2-D. They’re exactly like Schulz’s drawings down to the hand drawn lines for mouths, eyebrows and even speed lines while moving like stop-motion animation. Luckily in trying to emulate the comic strip look and staging they still manage to make every frame look absolutely beautiful. They take advantage of the 3-D CGI for more dynamic blocking while still using lot’s of proscenium and two-shots like the comic. There is never a moment where the characters look off model from the transfer from 2-D to 3-D, it’s like they somehow made these drawings come to life. I could watch the cinematography in this film all day, I really hope they continue to make use of this style. It’s always bright and colorful while all the textures look so real despite forming to the bizarre shapes of the character’s bodies. All of this is perfectly complemented by the score by up-and-coming Christophe Beck. Also the song choices all seem fine, yes some are pretty modern and not especially jazzy (one of the most famous aspects of the specials), but they seemed to pick good ones that matched the emotion well and never broke the world the movie had created.
Entertainment Value – 4
This is a really good kids film. I won’t go so far as to say it’s great, but it’s really good. It’s hard to say what exactly it is that keeps it from greatness, but it never quite hit me like great films tend to do. With the vignette storytelling it does make it feel like the specials but it also makes it not feel as emotionally satisfying as it should be. At a certain point I wanted more of a narrative structure to it. The Snoopy flying scenes while impressive and sure to capture the kid’s attention can feel… just like that, some eye candy to keep the kid’s interest. It never quite overstays it’s welcome and it’s these “dream” sequences are where the filmmakers really play with the camera moves. I especially loved how they always found a way to keep the bottom of Snoopy’s dog house/plane out of frame so we never see it. It was yet another nice reference to the strips. For me one of the best parts of the film was getting to hear the famous Peanuts theme in the theatre. It’s not like so many other revived franchises I could mention where it’s maybe once during the movie (normally placed in an awful spot) and again during the credits. No they use the Peanuts theme throughout, but never too much so that each time it gives off the right level of chills. Not all of the Peanuts gang get a lot of screen-time but with a cast this big that’s to be expected. The characters they do focus on get nice moments and even the ones who don’t are presented well enough that even a newcomer could easily follow who is who and identify their personality. We even get to see things you probably have wanted to see if you’ve been following Peanuts since childhood, like Pig-Pen FINALLY getting cleaned – good lord is that satisfying.
One of the best things about the movie was the ending of the story. Now this is a difficult task as a big part of Charlie Brown is how he is an underdog who almost always messes up, either through his own clumsiness or the universe deciding he needs to be knocked down a peg. The strip was never too syrupy or too sentimental, I mean it was, but in a very quiet dignified way. That’s not easy to do for a film where we tend to want more showy endings with big changes and whatnot. So, how do you balance that? The movie let’s a final Snoopy “dream” sequence give the big special effects blow-out for the kids that is being inspired by Charlie Brown himself. Second the actual climax in the real world is exciting, but doesn’t feel out of place. Essentially it’s just Charlie Brown trying to get from one end of the park to another but the editing, music and story is what makes it a big deal. The moral of the film is a good one, don’t be discouraged by life’s little setbacks, especially when you’re working to better yourself. Always do the right thing even if it may get in the way of your own goal, always do the right thing. It may not end with you getting EVERYTHING you want, but people will eventually notice the good you do. They may be little moments but those little moments do add up. I think it’s a very good moral for kids, especially in this cynical age we live in, with just the right dose of reality.
Rewatchability – 3.5
I can’t say that I am planning to watch this again, but if I do (and I’m pretty sure I will) I will be very interested to see how my opinion may or may not change.
For the Blu-ray features we would highly recommend the limited edition collectors set. Not only do you get a limited edition Snoopy stuffed animal but you also get a TON of extra features. You have your usual commentary and other things like that but then you have music videos, other shorts, and even a lesson on how to draw the characters themselves. Check out our unboxing below!
Watch ‘The Peanuts Movie’ Official Trailer Below.
Very good, but not great
For fans of the strip, this is a very good representation - not great but very good. For fans of animation, 'The Peanuts Movie' is a must see. Nice to see the old blockhead treated well and to know that a new generation of fans will likely be born from this film and learn a good lesson. I give it 4 stars out of 5.