‘Peanuts’ film aims jokes towards comic readers

By Zachary Landau | The Duquesne Duke

Photo Courtesy of Blue Sky Studios Released Nov. 6, “The Peanuts Movie” is the first feature film based on the comic franchise in 35 years.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Sky Studios
Released Nov. 6, “The Peanuts Movie” is the first feature film based on the comic franchise in 35 years.

As an avid fan of the original “Peanuts” comics, I was cautiously optimistic when 20th Century Fox announced they were producing a full-length feature for the license. I was once obsessed with Charles Schulz’s strip, so part of me was hoping that “The Peanuts Movie” would join the pantheon of quality content  that the franchise has to offer.

However, as someone who is emotionally jaded, I had to ask who the audience for “The Peanuts Movie” is. On the one hand, it’s clearly a family movie, as most of the intellectual property associated with the license is. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that many kids who are interested in Charlie Brown. To most young children, their exposure to “Peanuts” is solely the holiday specials which are not bad, but they are also not representative of a lot of the content in the film and Schulz’s original comics.

This is not a slam on “The Peanuts Movie,” however. The film is beautiful to watch and well-executed, but a lot of its appeal comes from how loveable the characters are which only the “Peanuts”-devoted are really able to invest themselves into.

The film is an expansion of one of the original subplots from the comics; Charlie Brown wants to impress the new Red-Haired Girl who just moved in to town. The plot follows his various attempts to show off in front of her, and each attempt is a failure. This is not a spoiler, obviously, because everyone expects him to fail. This predictability hinders the film a bit, but it is not so disappointing as to ruin the experience.

What can be sometimes disappointing is the animation. There are a few instances when characters are moving slowly and their models begin to jerk unnaturally. Character’s eyes would also sometimes move into their noses, and the lines that surround the pupils in the original comics to demonstrate shock are almost always on the characters’ faces.

The animation, despite a few oversights here and there, is easily some of the best the industry has to offer. The easiest way to describe the style is 3D meets Schulz; the characters are faithful to the image that their creator envisioned them as, but the computer-generated imagery and vibrant use of color makes the entire movie really pop.

Watching the film is like watching toys come to life, and indeed, this is probably the most fully-realized cast “Peanuts” has ever featured. The little town is wonderfully vibrant, and the animation breathes life into the characters that were rather stiff and unmoving in older specials. While the sketchy style of the original comics has a hard time moving into animation,  “The Peanuts Movie” allows itself to navigate Schulz’s world with confidence by forging this new style that pays homage to, but doesn’t entirely ape, the original material.

And that’s what this film ultimately serves to do; it is a love letter to the franchise that is arguably one of the most influential, but ultimately underrated, comics of all time. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with the characters and their individual quirks.

The film is also littered with little nods to the comics and specials, with characters spouting their famous lines and visual gags referencing content that is missing from the production. There is also a subplot that follows Snoopy and Woodstock writing a novel about their feud with The Red Barron which is delightful to those who remember his writing aspirations and vivid imagination. But again, those uninitiated will find these sequences amusing, but may write them off as filler because they do not have the nostalgia that long-time fans have. After all, it can be difficult to know every single factoid from a comic strip that ran for over 50 years.

It’s hard not to recommend “The Peanuts Movie.” For those who grew up on the original material, it is a definite must-see to relearn why we have fallen in love with the crew in the first place. For those who just want to watch a damn-good movie, it’s still worthwhile; just don’t be surprised if most of the jokes and charm goes over your head.

It’s a film singularly devoted to having fun, and that alone is a good enough reason to go see it. If you are the type of person who is more invested in more serious, grittier tales, look elsewhere. But if you enjoy a light and fun loving tale filled with great characters, this film is very ideal.

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