Saturday, November 14, 2015

'The Peanuts Movie': 'Garfield,' This is Not [Guest Poster: Jon]

Created by artist Charles M. Schultz, the Peanuts comics introduced us to the world of Charlie Brown and his friends, as they navigated the ups and downs of childhood. Since the release of the comics, the characters and the series itself has been adapted for television — including two very famous holiday specials — video games, and musicals. But there has not been a film released in 35 years that features Charlie Brown and his friends. With this year marking the 65th anniversary of the Peanuts’ debut, it was only appropriate for release of a new adventure with Snoopy and the gang.

The film focuses on Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), a down on his luck kid who, as hard as he may try, just can’t seem to succeed at anything — even flying a kite. When the Little Red-Haired Girl moves in across the street, Charlie Brown becomes determined to become a different person and no longer be a loser, attempting to win the Little Red-Haired Girl’s affections in the process. Throughout the film we also follow Snoopy (Bill Melendez) as he continues his never-ending battle against the Red Baron, saving the love of his life Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) while he does.

If you have read my reviews before, I usually go into much greater detail in regards to the film’s plot. But in the case of The Peanuts Movie, that’s literally all the plot there is in the film. It is such a simple and basic story, which makes the film feel refreshingly old school. This excellent balance of nostalgia, coupled with modern CG animation makes this one of the best animated films in recent years.

All of the children who served as voice actors were spot-on in regards to their characters, with Schnapp getting the right amount of optimism and determination to play Charlie Brown and standout Hadley Belle Miller as Lucy — who sounds exactly like the voice actress who played her in A Charlie Brown Christmas. In addition, it is a joy to hear the voice of Bill Melendez as Snoopy and Woodstock. Rather than hire someone new to play the two, the filmmakers got permission to use Melendez’s archival recordings to create the dialogue (Melendez died in 2008). Getting these recordings was a brilliant idea, as this means that Melendez can still live on with his iconic characters and provide the same joy for a new generation.

As mentioned previously, the film’s story is refreshingly simple, revolving around Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang. This is not a film that needs to be focused on some big, grand adventure, or even become some live-action/CGI hybrid. Rather, it only needs to be simplistic and live up to Schultz’s legacy.

The film manages to do that in both regards. The script was actually written by Schultz’s son and grandson along with the grandson’s writing partner. Because of the two Schultzes working on the film, there’s a certain sense of nostalgia that the script has to it. It feels like a classic Peanuts cartoon, with both Schultz generations managing to uphold the family legacy.

There’s a ton of nice callbacks to the original strips and cartoons, especially one clever reference to the Christmas special — the film manages to also use Vince Guaraldi’s original score on occasion. The Peanuts Movie also never tries to shoehorn in modernized references. There are pop songs in the film (performed by Meghan Trainor), but here, the songs feel organic and related to the film’s plot. They aren’t annoying, but are actually welcoming and catchy.

Another aspect of this movie that is worth noting is the animation style. The animation throughout is a mixture of computer-generated backgrounds with almost a bizarre mixture of hand drawn animation and 3D textures. The end result is stunningly beautiful, as the film combines classic Schultz drawings with modern animation for a film.

Honestly, it’s pretty rare for a film to have me walk out of the theater grinning from ear to ear, but The Peanuts Movie managed to do exactly that. The film is easily one of the best animated films of the year, backed by gorgeous animation and a story that feels so refreshing in its simplicity. Because the truth is that whether you’re two or 92, you’re never too old for Peanuts.



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