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"The Peanuts Movie": The view from Snoopy's doghouse has never looked like this.

When it was first announced that Peanuts would be turned into a 3D movie, many of my fellow Peanuts fans were afraid that the resulting film would turn the beloved comic strip into some garish contemporary bastardization of Charles M. Schulz’ vision. They forget the innumerable TV specials produced during Schulz’ lifetime that already did that job. I mean, I sat through It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown! when I was little. Any movie would have to work hard to be worse than that. Well, I have good news: The Peanuts Movie is not only faithful to its creator’s innocent yet wise spirit but also makes a perfectly fine film on its own.

There isn’t much plot here, nor does there necessarily need to be. Our old pal Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schapp) goes through his life unable to catch a break until a little red-haired girl (voiced by Francesca Capaldi) moves in across the street. Charlie Brown decides to impress her, but everything he tries, whether it’s learning to dance or writing a book report on War and Peace, seems to backfire on him.

The script was co-written by Charles M. Schulz’ son Craig and his grandson Bryan, so it’s no wonder that they stay largely on familiar ground. The filmmakers have made no attempt to update things to our time period — you won’t see Linus (voiced by Alexander Garfin) using a smartphone. Schulz’ art depended heavily on precise lines, so the transition to 3D computer animation was always going to be difficult, but the animators behind the Ice Age and Rio movies make it work splendidly: The characters look like the ones that Schulz drew, but now we can appreciate the precise fall of hair on Peppermint Patty (voiced by Venus Schultheis). When Snoopy (voiced by the late Bill Melendez) imagines himself as a World War I flying ace, the movie soars with his doghouse into the sky over the French countryside, engaging in inconclusive dogfights with the Red Baron.

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Many of the comic strip’s greatest hits get recycled here, as Charlie Brown gets undressed by a line drive, has his kite eaten by a tree, and futilely tries to kick the football from Lucy (voiced by Hadley Belle Miller). I wish the movie had let Linus drop some of his bookish wisdom on us or turned Lucy’s choleric energy loose. Still, the only real misstep is near the end when the little red-haired girl finally speaks. We really don’t need her to explain why she actually has noticed Charlie Brown.

She notices him because he’s the decent guy we’ve always known him to be, and when he finds out that his perfect score on a standardized school test was given to him by mistake, we know he’ll come clean. The wisdom of these children who speak like adults hasn’t gone out of style, and The Peanuts Movie provides a perfect introduction to them. If you’re lucky enough to be a kid who hasn’t been exposed to Peanuts, or lucky enough to be the parent of such a kid, you’re in for a special treat.

 

[box_info]The Peanuts Movie
Voices by Noah Schapp, Alexander Garfin, and Hadley Belle Miller. Directed by Steve Martino. Written by Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano, based on Charles M. Schulz’ comic strip. Rated G.[/box_info]

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