The Peanuts Movie

Directed by:  Steve Martino

Starring: Kristin Chenoweth, Bill Melendez, Hadley Belle Miller, and Noah Schnapp

When I first saw The Peanuts Movie trailer, a wave of nostalgia washed over me.  I grew up watching Charlie Brown specials every holiday season.  The comic strips and cartoons have a warm place in my heart.  At the same time, I wondered whether Charlie Brown would translate on the big screen at a time when we are inundated with animated fare.  The Peanuts Movie is cute, sweet and true to the original material, but it failed to excite me or my 6 year-old daughter.

Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) is a young boy who is notorious for failure and embarrassment at every turn.  He can’t fly a kite.  He can’t dance.  He can’t play sports.  He is not successful in school, and the other kids consider him to be a huge joke.  Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), in particular, is always there to loudly point out Charlie’s shortcomings.  Charlie Brown is the quintessential lovable loser.

Just as Charlie is feeling hopeless, a new girl moves in across the street.  Charlie immediately becomes enamored with the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi).  Since the Little Red-Haired Girl is new, she does not know about Charlie’s reputation as the school’s laughingstock.  He views her as a chance at a fresh start.  Charlie spends the entire school year trying to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl and win her heart.  With the help of his dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez), Charlie embarks on a year of transformation, and shenanigans ensue.

Director Steve Martino successfully captures the spirit of Charles M. Schulz’s famous characters, and stays true to the comic strip.  The animation in the Peanuts movie is sharp, colorful and modern, but simultaneously has an “old school” quality. The film’s jazzy score is pitch perfect, and adds to the nostalgic quality of the film. It is hard not to tap your feet when you hear the piano chords start in “Linus and Lucy” (a.k.a. the Charlie Brown theme song).  Moreover, Martino gifted us with dancing from the Peanuts’ gang.  I dare anyone to watch Charlie Brown’s friends hit the dance floor and not smile.  Additionally, Martino uses unknown child actors to voice the children, which is refreshing as many animated films use adult movie stars to voice young characters.

Although The Peanuts Movie is consistent with the comic strip and other Charlie Brown movies, the film’s plot is too simple.  The world of animation has changed dramatically since 1950 when the Peanuts’ comic strip first began.  Toy Story, Shrek and The Incredibles changed the landscape many years ago, and the storytelling in animated films became something that both children and adults can enjoy.  More recently, Inside Out and The Lego Movie captivated audiences.  Simply put, the writing for animated fare has been elevated, and Charlie Brown’s story is too simple and unambitious for feature film.  The film’s plot felt dated to me.  I have been spoiled by great storytelling, and The Peanuts Movie is safe and unambitious.  

Moreover, although Snoopy’s Red Baron adventures are legendary, too much time in the film was spent in Snoopy’s imaginary world.  I know purists will rail that Snoopy’s imaginary world is critical, as it shows that Snoopy has his own entertaining side story as Charlie’s life crumbles around him.  However, Snoopy really shines when he is showing Charlie how to dance, or sneaking into class pretending to be a student.  His shenanigans in the “real world” are much more entertaining than his imaginary adventures, and I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Snoopy and the other characters.  

The Peanuts Movie
earns a 0.09% rating.  The Peanuts Movie is sweet, but the plot is made for network television.