The Peanuts Movie (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★
“The Peanuts Movie,” written by Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz and Cornelius Uliano, captures the spirit of what we come to love from Charles M. Schulz’ comic strip: the ups and downs of being a kid, the small but wicked ironies of life, and the timeless lessons along the way about camaraderie, friendship, and family. Although not a daring work by any means, it is nonetheless beautiful, highly watchable, and entertaining.
Much of the humor is rooted on Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapps) standing in quicksand: the more he tries to be liked by his peers, the faster he sinks in humiliation. There is a consistent excitement during the first half hour as the writers play with Charlie Brown’s expectations. It works because although we are fully aware things are going to head south for the lead character eventually, given that such is the character’s signature, the joy of watching the picture does not waver because there is not one single situation, joke, or challenge that comes across as mean-spirited.
When a new girl moves across the street, however, Charlie Brown recognizes an opportunity for reinvention—a chance to get to know a person, even impress her, without preconceived notions about him. Although the material can be criticized for injecting an unnecessary love story in a children’s movie, I argue that what Charlie Brown and The Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi) shares is no love story at all. For it to be one, one of the main qualifications is for the screenplay to juggle the two personalities in some way. Here, we get only Charlie Brown’s perspective just up until the very end. Thus, the plot revolves around his insecurities and what he attempts to do to circumvent or overcome them.
Less effective are sequences where Snoopy (Bill Melendez) fantasizes about rescuing another beagle named Fifi from the Red Baron. These scenes function as filler because there is no real emotion behind them, unlike Charlie Brown consistently feeling disappointed with himself because it appears as though nothing he tries seems to be good enough.
Snoopy’s aerial chases with the Red Baron get boring real quick because nothing important is at stake. So what if Snoopy gets the girl or not get the girl in the end? This subplot—which takes up about a quarter of the film’s running time—exists only in his mind, after all. Although the filmmakers get to experiment with some of the visuals during the action sequences and deliver some interesting touches from time to time, the movie’s pacing slows to a drag during these scenes.
Directed by Steve Martino, “The Peanuts Movie” offers a good time and, surprisingly, a healthy dose of wisdom. Some one-liners are likely to stop more thoughtful viewers and consider the philosophical implications of an advice or observation. Although these are likely to go over young children’s heads, it is wonderful that the adults are included in the fun.