The Peanuts Movie

2015 animated movie

Rating: 15/20 (Buster: 20/20)

Plot: Hopeless loser Charlie Brown attempts to gain the affection of a little redheaded girl.

Sound familiar? Well, a lot of this will, and I'm actually pretty sure that was just the right move. I had reservations about this when I first heard about this project from the Blue Sky people. Ice Age isn't bad, but I haven't liked any of its seemingly endless sequels or anything else the studio has put out, and I wondered what these exquisitely two-dimensional characters would look like with fancy computer-generated bodies and mannerisms. The first preview peaked my interest, and the movie itself, though it breaks absolutely no ground at all, is just as sweet and fun as the Peanuts best television special moments, if those are your thing. If they're not, you're probably either Hitler or Satan.

Ice skating sequence? Check. Lucy with her nickel psychiatrist business? Check. Red Baron v. Snoopy shenanigans? Check. Dance scene? Check. Failed kite flying? Check. Great Pumpkin reference? Check. Little redheaded girl? Definitely a check as she's at the heart of the entire plot. Failed attempt to kick a football? Check. Hell, even Snoopy's relative from the desert (Spike, right?) finds his way in this thing! This starts to feel like a Greatest Hits deal after a while, as safe as The Force Awakens, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. With characters this beloved, you really don't want to mess with the formula, and this movie takes everything familiar and updates in a way that catches the characters up with the technology and 21st Century animation while still being respectful to Schulz's vision. I'm still a little surprised at how natural the characters look in this format, and the setting details in the background, though almost always kept simple, are as good as you'd expect from the people who made Ice Age, a movie with striking backgrounds. I really enjoyed the look of this movie, maybe even more like a comic strip come to life than the televised stuff.

You could accuse this of having choppy storytelling, but that's actually consistent with the televised specials. You could actually watch just fragments of this and have perfect little comic strips, the same sorts of mini-stories that might not be all that funny (I don't believe I've ever laughed at a Peanuts comic strip) but have that Schulz poignancy, almost like cute koans. As with all great animated features, this one has a lot for adults, but it's not contemporary allusions or jokes that go over little kids' heads. Or fart jokes, unless that's what is going on with Pigpen. No, the parts of this that appeal to adults works because it's all stuff that you get only with the wisdom that years of experience being a human being can give you.

This is simple in all the right ways and as touching as something that lacks surprises like this can be. I'm sure the makers of Ice Age are planning five or eight sequels as I type, but I'm actually not sure where they can go. Didn't they pretty much use up all of Schulz's ideas? I guess Charlie Brown can go to camp or something.

Question: Does Peppermint Patty wear flip-flops in the snow in the original cartoons? She does here, and it made me wonder if that's the case in the Christmas special.

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