Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Peanuts Movie

Note: This review contains spoilers for The Peanuts Movie.

My own experience with Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip has been somewhat minimal, having read one collection of the comic and watched a handful of the TV specials, so I’m not too much of an expert on Peanuts lore. That said, I still enjoyed what I knew of it, so when The Peanuts Movie was announced from the now-defunct Blue Sky Studios of Ice Age fame, I was somewhat curious about it because of the animation style, and especially after hearing a lot of positive word-of-mouth. However, I would not end up seeing it in a theater and it wouldn’t be until years later when I finally watched it through Disney+ to satisfy my own curiosity. Once I finally did watch it, I was amazed by its faithfulness to the source material and loved every minute of it.

On a snow day, Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp, uncredited) attempts to fly a kite once again, however nothing seems to go his way. On the first day of school, he falls for a new kid in his class who had just moved into the neighborhood, the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, uncredited), though he can’t work up the courage to talk to her due to his low self-esteem. Meanwhile, after multiple failed attempts to get into the school, Snoopy (Bill Melendez, archive audio) happens upon a typewriter and uses it to write a story about himself as a World War I Flying Ace whose arch enemy is the Red Baron.

Snoopy trying to figure out how a typewriter works.

The story manages to perfectly capture the tone and timelessness of a Peanuts story, up to and including the style of humor and how the universe is against Charlie Brown for the bulk of the runtime. Snoopy’s imagination subplot, in which we see the return of the character Fifi (Kristen Chenowith) after a 25-year absence, serves as an effective parallel to Charlie Brown’s character arc, culminating in a rather emotional finale with a rare moment where things finally go right for Charlie Brown. While it would be nice to see another story that builds off from this, the Disney/Fox merger and closure of Blue Sky make this unlikely, though I’m satisfied that it ended on a high note.

The animation is simply incredible in the way it uses CG to perfectly replicate Schulz’s art style and still appear as though on a 2D plane in most shots. This helps bring the comic strip to life in a new way without being off-putting, as using CG to replicate traditional media is not an easy task. On that note, there are some occasional thought balloons that use very fluid traditional animation that also perfectly replicates the Peanuts art style, providing the best of both worlds in a very seamless way.

2D and CG animation are integrated seamlessly at times.

The voice acting and music also bring to mind the Peanuts specials, including recycling some more famous music wholesale, adding to the immersion of the experience. There are some licensed songs in there as well, though they are thankfully selected in a way that still fits in with the style of Peanuts and are not too distracting. The new voice actors for the characters, most of whom are surprisingly uncredited, manage to match the classic voices flawlessly, especially Noah Schnapp of Stranger Things fame in the role of Charlie Brown. The late Bill Melendez’s archive audio as Snoopy and Woodstock is used to great effect and Kristen Chenowith manages to deliver a great performance in the role of Fifi.

Though it may have taken me long enough to see The Peanuts Movie, I’m glad I finally did. The faithfulness to the source material, both story and art-wise, is stellar and the ending is surprisingly cathartic for anyone familiar with Peanuts on some level. There’s no reason for a Peanuts fan not to watch this, though it’s also good for those looking for a more uplifting story in these difficult times.

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