I have to admit to having mixed feelings when hearing about “The Peanuts Movie,” the new digitally animated take on the Charles M. Schulz classic comic strip.
This was to be the first “new” Peanuts property since Schulz’s death in 2000 and part of me feared this could be little more than an attempt to cash in on bankable characters while casting aside Schulz’s unique sensibility.
Plus, was it even necessary? I mean what could a movie give us 50 years of comic strips and several animated television specials had not?
Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. “The Peanuts Movie,” which comes from Blue Sky Studios, who are responsible for the “Ice Age” movies, was made with heavy involvement from the Schulz family (his son, Craig, and grandson, Bryan, helped write the screenplay) and introduces the Peanuts gang to a whole new generation by bringing them to life with all of their foibles and neuroses attached.
I was raised on the daily strips and Peanuts Treasuries I checked out over and over again from the local library. They were funny sure, but I also remember feeling, even though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, this was one of the few things accessible to kids that didn’t pander to them.
While adults always loved to tell you childhood was idyllic and carefree, Schulz seemed to be one of the only adults that truly remembered childhood was as packed with as many (if not more) anxieties and insecurities as any other phase of life. And he made it OK to laugh at it.
“The Peanuts Movie” brings all of that to the screen as the entire cast of characters (we even get a Shermy sighting!) voiced by an army of child actors get their moment in the sun. It’s also a lot of fun to hear jazz great Trombone Shorty as the famous “wah-wah” voice of the unseen adults.
But as great as it is to see Linus’ blanket, Schroeder’s piano, and Lucy’s psychiatry booth (whose five-cent fee is completely inflation-proof), the heart of the story, as it has always been, centers on Charlie Brown and his beloved, fantasy-prone beagle Snoopy.
The plot is thin and built around Charlie Brown’s eternal quest to impress The Little Red-Haired Girl along with Snoopy writing an extended tale of the World War I Flying Ace’s battles against the Cursed Red Baron.
This breezy approach lets various characters and gags pop in and out without feeling shoehorned in.
It is also great to see the movie embrace as a central theme Schulz’s daring insistence that in spite of what our society screams at us, it is possible for someone to simultaneously be a habitual failure and a loser who is also a good person beloved by those around him. Donald Trump would not approve.
What matters most is “The Peanuts Movie” is exactly what it should be, nothing more, nothing less. We should always be so lucky.
“The Peanuts Movie” is rated G.