PEANUTS: Somewhere, Charles Schulz is Blushing

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Co. are back with style in The Peanuts Movie.
Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and Co. are back with style in The Peanuts Movie.

I was worried when I heard Blue Sky had acquired the rights to make the next theatrical PEANUTS movie, at first. Blue Sky tends to make movies that look presentable, but rely on too much bathroom humor and irritating characters to really trust with – what I believe to be – the cornerstone of golden age comic strips.

Thank goodness for the father-son writer-producers of Bryan and Craig Schulz to keep the inherent warmth and pathos of PEANUTS intact, able to be enjoyed by children and adults all around.

The Peanuts Movie turns out to be a crowning achievement of storytelling that would make Charles Schulz proud and just a little bashful. Mr. Schulz was a notoriously humble man who simply enjoyed giving others joy with his characters and comics.

The story is split up into two separate, yet joined story-lines involving Charlie Brown and his incorrigible dog, Snoopy. Charlie Brown spots a newly moved-in neighbor, the cutest Little Red-Haired Girl you’ve ever seen, and immediately falls in puppy love. He spends the rest of the film trying to discover ways to build up his self-confidence, from visiting the local psychiatric booth to modern dance lessons. Meanwhile, Snoopy is inspired by his master’s lovelorn behavior and sets off into the skies as his Flying Ace alter ego to rescue a beautiful poodle flying ace from the clutches of the nefarious Red Baron.

There are uniquely wonderful moments provided in this movie, from Charlie Brown daring to fly a kite in the middle of winter to spite the Kite-Eating Tree to his sister Sally’s rodeo demonstration at the school talent show.

The gang is all here to perform as well, with Lucy being fuss-budgety as always, Linus providing moments of childish, philosophical clarity, and Schroeder being the compulsive soundtrack artist we know he is, even providing the iconic 20th Century Fox theme we expect. The filmmakers realize that the best PEANUTS adventures focus equally on both Charlie Brown’s struggles as well as Snoopy and Woodstock’s shenanigans.

Of the five features made of the Peanuts canon, this is certainly one of the best, alongside A Boy Named Charlie Brown and the truly under-appreciated Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, whose only sin was being released the same year as a little movie called Star Wars.

I really adored this movie. It presented a fresh slice of PEANUTS lore, with plenty of literary callbacks, heartfelt character interactions, and surprisingly well-mounted aerial sequences that more than live up to the past specials and films. The gags are awesome and inventive, the cast uniform and charming all around, and the direction is pretty spot-on, if I should say so myself.

I hope it gets an Animated Feature nomination, because it’s really deserving, just for adapting the Schulz animation style, updating it, while not radically altering the design and lining of the world. Also, kudos for not trying to “update” the material or setting. PEANUTS should stay timeless. Please make more of these, Blue Sky!

*If I could make one suggestion: ditch the modern music and bring back the classy jazz soundtrack. It just works better that way.