It’s something that fans of Charlie Brown and Snoopy have been waiting for, for several reasons. The Peanuts Movie hit theaters late last year, but it was lost in the movie season among the spectacle that was Star Wars released just weeks later. Yet if you saw it in the theater, you realize this movie was a keeper. The Peanuts Movie is what all family movies strive for: classic characters, good-natured humor, something to enjoy for every moviegoer. The very young will love Snoopy and understand the relationship of the Peanuts kids that we older folks have known and loved for years, in newspaper funnies, in paperback editions, and the many Peanuts specials. The Peanuts Movie does something else–it provides the best version of Charlie Brown and friends we’ve seen since the original 1965 favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The Peanuts Movie gets it right from the beginning, in its pedigree. It’s written by Craig Schulz, Charles M. Schulz’s son and a writer on the Community comedy series, and Charles’ grandson, Bryan. So, unlike the onslaught of lackluster adaptations that have plagued the Dr. Seuss properties after his death, the same heart and soul of Charles’ creation is as powerful as ever. The writers have turned to the source material for many interactions in the film, like Lucy’s converted lemonade stand/psychiatry office and the famous wall where Charlie and Linus ponder the worlds’ problems, and yet they have updated the story in subtle and important ways that are both loyal to the original and still give loyalists a satisfying pay-off. And don’t worry, the updating ends with the inclusion of standardized tests–you won’t find any cell phones, smart phones or texting issues for the kids in this movie.
The story centers around Charlie Brown’s attraction to the little red-haired girl who moves in across the street and the lengths he will go to to try to impress her. This love affair was the core of many original Peanuts comic strips, based on Charles Schulz’s real-life attraction from afar with a red-haired girl. Snoopy’s parallel exploits in this movie mirror this love affair, as he pursues his own love story on paper, revealed to us as a story of a dog trying to win over air pilot Fifi in his World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane on a mission in France, also taking on the famous Red Baron.
The Peanuts Movie hails from Blue Sky Studios, who brought us the Ice Age franchise. Even without a 3D television the depth of field here is spectacular, and with the 3D effect director Steve Martino does not shell out standard 3D gimmicks, but lets the characters simply float off the comic strip and into their own full-color, beautiful “real” world. The backgrounds look like the homes and backyards of any American town cul de sac. And if you look close enough you’ll see Snoopy finally has fur.
The other requirement for this level of successful Peanuts production is the voice acting. We’ve all seen Peanuts in so many airings of the holiday specials, and spent so many holidays with these kids–Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day–that we know their voices well by now, including the sounds of Snoopy and Woodstock, provided here from recordings of the one and only Bill Melendez, the voice of the characters used since 1965. Each character is spot-on.
Although The Peanuts Movie does not take the liberties with the characters as has been done with last year’s The Muppets TV series, it does take a few of the characters in similarly fun new directions. Pig Pen, the kid who walks in a dust cloud, is finally matched with an adoring girlfriend. Charlie’s young sister Sally gets to take center stage in the story by participating in a school contest. And finally, someone else gets to utter the words “Good Grief.” You simply can’t miss with The Peanuts Movie, without a doubt the best animated movie of 2015.
You can find The Peanuts Movie available now on streaming services and on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and UltraViolet here at Amazon.com.