The Peanuts Movie

Posted by Joel Copling on November 6, 2015

We've seen them as characters from a comic strip, created by the late Charles M. Schulz, beloved by a certain generation that then passed it down from child to grandchild and so forth (The strip's reruns are still going strong, as is its influence on other ones). We've seen the characters in the form of 2-D animation via televised holiday specials and other features that gained just as faithful an audience as the comic strip before them. And now, "The Peanuts Movie," adapted from both sources by Cornelius Uliano and Schulz's own son Brian and grandson Craig, gives a rendition of those characters that is both traditional and modern. The result isn't up to scratch with the best two of those aforementioned television specials, but it's a pretty adorable thing.

In tone and playfulness, everything has remained the same about our cast of schoolchildren who live a peaceful life in a suburb. Charlie Brown (voice of Noah Schnapp) still wears his yellow shirt with the crooked, black line across the chest, still dons that single curly hair upon his otherwise bare head, and still feels that sense of youthful inadequacy, not helped by the fact that almost literally nothing goes his way. He still can't fly a kite without something happening to it (In fact, there's a tree full of kites that, we realize, might all be his from previous attempts). He can't read the entirety of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" in order to write a book report without getting 17 words into a 1,000-word minimum and realizing that it's no use (and that's before the report is destroyed by a wayward toy cropduster).

In other words, he's the same, old Charlie Brown that we've known and loved for however long we've been following the kid's adventures in his neighborhood. This means that it can't be a good thing when a family moves across the street from his house, and a red-haired girl (voice of Francesca Capaldi), who makes his smile wider and his cheeks redder at the mere thought of her, joins the classroom (where, of course, the unseen teacher speaks like a trombone). Charlie Brown is immediately smitten, much to the dismay of Lucy (voice of Hadley Belle Miller), who conspires all of her conspiracies for revenge after Charlie Brown accidentally gets the first perfect score on the standardized test.

There are other characters here, too, although the screenwriters and director Steve Martino unfortunately give a lot of them the shaft. Linus (voice of Alexander Garfin) still has his blanket, Peppermint Patty (voice of Venus Schultheis, which is some kinda name) still calls Charlie Brown by the shorthand for his Christian name, Schroeder (voice of Noah Johnston) still plays that piano with the skill of a prodigy, and so forth. But that's all they do and, sadly, represent in this version of the tale. It's still amusing stuff at its best moments, but the heart lies with Charlie Brown himself, and the conclusion at which the film arrives about this boy (that his weaknesses are his strengths, depending on perception) is particularly touching.

I would be remiss not to mention arguably the most important character, besides Charlie Brown, but unfortunately, that lovable Beagle at his side, Snoopy (with tweety bird Woodstock at his side and both voiced in respective yips and chirps by the late Bill Melendez via archival audio), is thrust to the wayside with an expendable subplot involving a typewriter that sort of transports them into a further fictional world in which Snoopy must rescue a damsel-in-distress named Fifi (voiced also in yips by Kristin Chenoweth) in wartime Europe. It comes to nothing, isn't resolved, and only serves as a distraction to the rest of the proceedings. No matter, though, because "The Peanuts Movie" understands an important thing: It's all about the simple and sweet pleasures, Charlie Brown. The lovable blockhead is the same, and that's enough.

Film Information

Featuring the voices of Noah Schnapp (Charlie Brown), Hadley Belle Miller (Lucy van Pelt), Alexander Garfin (Linus), Bill Melendez (Snoopy/Woodstock), Venus Schultheis (Peppermint Patty), Mariel Sheets (Sally Brown), Rebecca Bloom (Marcie), Noah Johnston (Schroeder), Francesca Capaldi (The Little Red-Haired Girl), Kristin Chenoweth (Fifi), Madisyn Shipman (Violet Grey), A.J. Tecce (Pig-Pen), Marleik "Mar Mar" Walker (Franklin), William Wunsch (Shermy).

Directed by Steve Martino and written by Brian Schulz, Craig Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano, based on the comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz.

Rated G.

88 minutes.

Released on November 6, 2015.