Commemorating the 65th anniversary of Charles M Schulz’s iconic comic strip, the Peanuts clan whoops it up on the big screen in this catchy computer-animated comedy. Working from a script co-authored by the late cartoonist’s son Craig, grandson Bryan and the latter’s collaborator Cornelius Uliano, director Steve Martino (whose credits include Ice Age: Continental Drift and Horton Hears A Who!) remains faithful to the old-fashioned values to be found in the original comic strips.
Over the decades there have been scores of television spin-offs, not to mention global exhibits, a stage musical and straight-to-video shorts, but this is the first time since 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and Don’t Come Back that Schulz’s beloved characters have assembled for a full-length feature (in 3D, no less).
Punctuated by a fusillade of gags both visual and verbal …The Peanuts Movie emulates Schulz’s striking artwork to recreate a tech-free micro-universe in which there are no grown-ups (except as ‘wahwah’ sounding off-screen voices).
As for the vividly rendered antics of the kiddie brigade, they will likely resonate even with a new generation of youngsters unfamiliar with the source comics. For accompanying adults, many of whom may have read the syndicated funnies at some point, here’s a chance to get reacquainted with the pleasures of the long-running paperback series.
It is apparent from the outset that the protagonist Charlie Brown (voiced in appropriately nervous tones by Schnapp) is a born loser. When a little red-haired girl (Capaldi) moves into the neighbourhood, he hesitantly attempts to win her affection.
Predictably, Charlie’s plans go awry. Whether it’s participating in the school dance competition or an assignment to evaluate Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, he winds up becoming the laughing stock of his classmates. As Schulz had once remarked, “Winning is great, but it isn’t funny”.
Unfazed by the predicaments he has to contend with, Charlie remains immune to disillusionment, determined to pursue his dreams.
In a parallel plot development, Charlie’s pet pooch Snoopy (Bill Melendez) daydreams about his exploits as an ace World War I fighter pilot. His imaginary dogfights with an arch-nemesis are adroitly animated. The beagle also frets over the safety of the love of his life, a French poodle named Fifi (Kirstin Chenoweth).
On the downside, the large gallery of supporting characters, including the perennially dirty Pig-Pen (AJ Tecce), piano prodigy Schroeder (Noah Johnston) and Charlie’s football-snatching frenemy Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller) almost seem to have been accommodated as an afterthought.
Commendably, the resolution approximates the redemptive quality to be found in almost any Charlie Brown comic.