“It could’ve gone so wrong” The Peanuts Movie review


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By Rob Stoakes

Despite being the most talented movie reviewer of our generation, I walked into The Peanuts Movie having no clue as to how it would fare. On the one hand, Blue Sky Studios haven’t made a film that was any better than mediocre since Ice Age, and if there’s one intellectual property that doesn’t need Hollywood’s “Simplify everything and stamp out all emotion” attitude towards kid’s movies, it’s Peanuts. But on the other hand… it’s Peanuts. Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip is one of the most sincere and darkly hilarious things ever created. Surely, Hollywood couldn’t ruin that, right?

Right?

Admit it, I had you worried for a while there. I know what all of you were thinking; “Oh god no, is there some really tired plot about how Charlie Brown has to defeat a gang of bullies? Does Linus have an arc where he’s mean until he’s not because of love and friendship? Does Snoopy reference Taylor Swift songs and lolCats?”

But no; either Peanuts is so good that not even the Hollywood machine could ruin it, or Steve Martino slapped anyone who tried to change the screenplay the Schulz estate provided, but the Peanuts Movie stays true to the original comic and, as a result, easily rubs shoulders with the best kids films of the past five years and surpasses most of them, and is one of my favourite films of the year.

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Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

The plot is simple, taking the form of four short vignettes connected by the plots of Charlie Brown’s attempts to get the Little Red Headed Girl to notice him, while Snoopy writes a novel telling of his conflict with the Red Baron. Like Snoopy’s iconic red doghouse, the plot is basic but well crafted, with the Red Baron sequences acting as act breakers in-between the main plot that would otherwise feel rushed. It’s not especially ambitious and some may sniff their nose at it, but narrative complexity is overrated; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was complex, and it was also as fun as dental surgery.

The script isn’t just well structured; it’s also funny, with a Looney Tunes-esque mix of slow but sharp dialogue and fast paced slapstick. Although it’s lost some of the depressing and dark edge of Schulz’s original creation, it still has plenty of wickedly vicious teeth hiding in its innocent smile, particularly in the form of Lucy, who steals every scene she’s in and is translated perfectly. Speaking of translation, although Peanuts fans will go crazy for all of the tiny details, like the mention of a certain holiday-themed figure or what Snoopy’s choice of drink is, this is newcomer friendly; you don’t have to know what Peppermint Patty’s full name is to enjoy this (it’s Patricia Reichardt, by the way).

Despite being CGI, the film does its utmost to look and sound just like the comic strip and the cartoon specials of the 70’s. Obviously 2D character models move the screen in an appealingly jerky motion that a lesser team would get wrong. And I suspect Blue Sky Studios might be hiding a time machine somewhere because the voice actors are so close to the original it’s scary.

If there’s one criticism, it’s the soundtrack, with Meghan Trainor’s pop song sticking out like a sore thumb against the orchestra and the jazz piano, but I’m now reaching so far to find a problem that my arm’s about to fall off. The Peanuts Movie could’ve gone so wrong and yet it is done so right, it has to be seen to be believed. Although Charlie Brown might lose every ball game he’s ever played, this film is a triumph in every respect.

Category Scoring out of 5 ⭐
Story/Plot ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Acting/Vocal Performance ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
Special Effects/Cinematography ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Soundtrack ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Costume/Design ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Script/Dialogue ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2
OVERALL RATING ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2

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