Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Peanuts Movie

It is with pleasure and relief that I can report that THE PEANUTS MOVIE, released last Friday, is a true delight.  A very welcome return to the sort of children's entertainment that is minus the currently fashionable cynicism and vernacular.   This was in marked contrast to the parade of trailers for upcoming kiddie pics we saw beforehand - each animated feature filled with characters spouting phrases along the lines of "shut the front door" or whatever other slang people are using these days.  Caustic attitudes that render talking animals as little more than parrots of the Generation X and Y adults who created them.

Charles Schulz's beloved sixty plus year old comic strip truly is timeless in its messages of longsuffering and pull up your bootstraps optimism, as timeless as his characters themselves who are forever in the first grade. A re-imagining of the Peanuts gang's personalities and attitudes would've been deadly, and that seems to be the trend with many remakes and rehashes anymore.  But the gang behind the camera (including producers/screenwriters Craig and Brian Schulz, the orignator's son and grandson) don't make the opposite mistake of having their wonderful creations exist in a stale landscape, either.

The eye filling computer animation (I did not see this in 3-D) nicely retains the hand drawn eyes, mouths, and other features with which fans are so familiar.  Director Steve Martino and his team even deftly insert some two dimensional images torn from the old comics, T.V. specials, and movies.  It perfectly assimilates the old with the new.   While some viewers may object to the liberal use of the pop song "Better When I'm Dancing" by Meghan Trainor, it's bouncy and bright and suits the good spirits of this movie.

THE PEANUTS MOVIE is akin to a "Greatest Hits" of the Peanuts world.  The plot incorporates all of the usual characters, with much of the plot following Charlie Brown's super crush on the Red-Haired Girl (eagle eyed viewers will catch her real name on a test score report), who's just moved across the street.  The kite eating tree, Snoopy's red baron fantasies (which are surprisingly intense and get a lot of screen time), the "wah wah" sound when adults speak,  Linus and his blanket, Schroeder and his piano (along with the latters' unrequited love from Sally and Lucy), and many other classic bits are all there.  For awhile it seems as if the film is just a collection of skits, but isn't it always really just about Everyman Chuck and his often in vain efforts just to get a little respect?  To have things not be a total disaster?  Who among you can't relate to that? As usual, lots of lessons are learned along the way, and the melancholia usually seen in a Peanuts special or movie is not as prevalent here.

But that does not mean the film has been tailored for our hypersensitive, P.C. world.  Lucy is still a snotty little brat, for one.  Sally comes off a bit selfish.  But it's all good, ultimately warm hearted fun.  And cute (you knew I'd say that).  Not a home run, necessarily, but a worthy big screen outing, the kids' first in 35 years.   I grew up watching those and everything Peanuts, so I was very eager to see the new movie and hopeful to be writing a favorable review.   I even teared up a little when a bit of Vince Guaraldi's indescribably emotional piano filled the soundtrack.  Though nothing like the tears I shed as a kid each time I watched SNOOPY, COME HOME.

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