Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

     The Peanuts Movie (2015) See the IMDb information here.
     One of the charms of Schulz’s Peanuts was his line. He could put more expression into a squiggle-mouth than many artists could put into a whole canvas. He was also a great writer: it’s not easy to make a three- or four-panel strip tell a story, or imply a larger one. Unlike many strips, Peanuts had a backstory that Schulz continually developed. So although the kids lived in a timeless universe, things did happen, our knowledge of the characters deepened, and their relationships became more complex. Just how Schulz managed this with a cast of almost pure stereotypes repays careful study, but this review is not a thesis.
     When any well-loved cartoon is converted to a movie, many in the audience, including me, will watch with a critical eye. How well does the movie capture the look’n’feel, the ambience, the quirkiness of the source? The answer here is, very well. The producers decided to model the characters in 3D, but to keep their faces 2D. Their mouths and eyes and eyebrows are the expressive squiggles of Schulz’s strip. That makes the movie visually very appealing, and dialogue almost unnecessary.
     The story is simple enough, Charlie Brown falls in love with the Little Red Haired Girl that has just moved into town. But he’s too bashful to talk to her, too afraid that she will look down on his dorkiness, too much conditioned into accepting the role given him by his classmates, especially Lucy.
     There are sub-plots. We see Snoopy as the WW1 Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron, every character gets at least one scene centre-stage, kites are Charlie Brown’s nemesis, and so on. For us who grew up with Peanuts, or whose children did, the movie is a nostalgia trip. Everything ends well, there’s a preachy moment when the Little Red Haired Girl explains why she likes Charlie Brown, but otherwise the movie is a well-done riff on the perennial Peanuts themes. Recommended. ***½

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