The Peanuts Movie
by Lisa Dib
Many childhood memories would have been irredeemably sullied if The Peanuts Movie had gone a different way; if they had done an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and tried to make it topical and trendy, it would have been a huge disservice to the much-loved comic. Thankfully, the whole team behind this film have the same love and respect for the Peanuts gang that we do, and made a loving, sweet reboot.
Director Steve Martino (Horton Hears a Who, Robots) maintained that he wanted the film to capture, albeit with the addition of CGI, the “hand-drawn warmth” of Charles M Schulz’s original comics, and this is exactly what you find. The film, rather than being some dodgy-looking 3D rendering of the gang, keeps a lot of the subtlety of Schulz’s drawings, and even uses them within the film at times. It keeps in with the tone and sweetness of the comics; it is not a “modern adaptation”, really, since the gang still use rotary phones, typewriters and, you know, play outside. The only modern addition really is the use of Meghan Trainor’s “Better When I’m Dancin’” for a dance sequence.
All the old hallmarks are there: ice-skating on the pond, Lucy’s psychiatric help booth (still only five cents), the old pitching mound, the school with its indecipherable teachers, and Snoopy’s many adventures and alter egos. The story doesn’t introduce any new characters, to keep in with the gang we know and love, so all the old favourites are there: Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder and his trusty piano, Pigpen, Sally, Snoopy’s little bird mate Woodstock, Linus and his blanket and, of course, the Little Red-Haired Girl, he object of Charlie Brown’s affections. It also maintains the slang and wording of the old comics, so you still get to hear Charlie Brown exclaim, “Augh!” when he gets frustrated, or hear his famous lament, “Good grief!”
Charles M Schulz died in 2000, and his writer/producer son Craig (True Blood, Community) and grandson Bryan started cooking up the idea of a tribute in 2006. The film follows our old friend, the downtrodden and perilously shy Charlie Brown, as he dodges the slings and arrows of his own low self-esteem and growing crush on the Little Red-Haired Girl, whom he is desperate to impress. The plot itself is classic kids’ movie fodder (a talent show, a school dance, a big gesture on the last day of school) but is inoffensive, charming and cute enough to carry such done-and-dusted plot points. Snoopy gets his adventures too, don’t worry: the dog shows up as alter-egos Joe Cool (somehow they never notice he’s a dog until he takes his sunnies off) and has a running fantasy of his battle with arch nemesis The Red Baron. He also clacks away at his typewriter (“It was a dark and stormy night …”) and has fun with Woodstock. The film also utilises Bill Melendez’s original ‘voices’ for Snoopy and Woodstock from the old Peanuts series.
The Peanuts Movie is very different to contemporary and popular kids’ films in many ways; there’s no real “gags” (in the sense that we are used to seeing them) and the plot is neither fantastical nor futuristic. It relies on down-home, traditional views of childhood and a quite innocent, idyllic world in which our gang live. It’s a nice, charming change from shoehorned pop culture references, white characters rapping or desperate attempts to cling onto quickly-passing trends.
The Peanuts Movie is out now.