When it comes to “The Peanuts Movie,” it’s all good and no grief.
The animated film from the company that produced “Rio” and “Ice Age” is a loving tribute to the characters first introduced through the creative talents of Charles Schulz. It has a colorfulness and energy that will introduce a new generation of fans to this gang, while adhering to the deep emotions that Schulz infused into his work.
What made this offbeat group of children so special was that they were a relatable vehicle for addressing life lessons. Schulz built his tales around a kid with a round head who brands himself a loser. But he emphasized that a person’s worth is not measured in public accomplishments but by the way they conduct themselves. That’s a point that is repeated in this film.
Director Steve Martino and writer Bryan Schulz use that central theme as the base for delivering all of the important characters from this comic strip world. They have laced the movie with all of the wonderful characters Schulz created to show the good in mankind. Linus continues to be the voice of reason. Sally represents the courage of youth. Pig-Pen exudes confidence despite his unkempt appearance.
Martino has had experience dealing with beloved cartoon characters – he directed Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! He shows the same respect with the Peanuts gang.
“The Peanuts Movie” works as a sweet and endearing animated film that will keep youngsters entertained. It’s the depth that the filmmakers bring –coupled with a reverence for the source material –that will give it broader appeal.
The filmmakers were smart enough to call on the franchise heritage. Sprinkled throughout the film are moments from both the comic strips and animated offerings, especially the 1965 Christmas special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” From the selection of music to the odd dance styles of the characters, “The Peanuts Movie” has a nostalgic touch that is delightful.
Maybe the most brilliant part is the voice casting. Those who have seen “A Charlie Brown Christmas” have become accustomed to a certain tenor for the voices of the Peanuts characters. Noah Schnapp deftly finds the slightly neurotic tones of Charlie Brown. But, Alexander Garfin’s Linus sounds exactly like the voice work of Chris Shea five decades ago in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The only slight flaw is that the Charlie Brown saga works best in short blasts. To stretch this film to a movie length, a lot of the production shifts to the flying exploits of Snoopy. These are fun and open up the film to more locations but they just don’t have the emotional depth and sweetness of the rest of the movie.
Even with this slight blemish, “The Peanuts Movie” is a worthy additional to the Charlie Brown legacy. It is smart, fun and offers some strong messages without being preachy. That is the framework Schulz established when he introduced the comic strip.
The best thing that can be said is you’re in a very good film, Charlie Brown.