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Movie review: do we really need a 3D Peanuts movie?
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Charlie Brown and Lucy - photo by Travis Poppleton
HENNEPIN COUNTY, Minnesota A friend of mine recently pointed out that The Peanuts Movie is in an impossible position.

If it stays true to the classic TV shows and holiday specials, he said, youll end up with a series of aimless vignettes that modern audiences will write off as boring. But, if you try to update the formula, youll upset the core fans; in which case, why even bother?

His point was a valid one, and going into the movie I found myself wondering why Craig and Bryon Schulz son and grandson of Charles M. Schulz thought we even needed a 3D Peanuts movie in the first place. Like many 3D Peanut skeptics, I was nervous the classic characters undergoing a computer generated makeover would come across as more of a gimmick than charming upgrade.

But the Schulz boys had settled on an uncomplicated formula for success we skeptics hadnt considered. In fact, Linus van Pelt had laid out said formula 50 years earlier, while sitting in a pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin. And what was that formula?

Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.

This unfeigned love letter the Schulz boys have written to their father, grandfather, and creator of one of the most beloved comic strips of all time may not win over every critic, but at the very least, audiences will see its heart is in the right place.

As always, lets talk about the highlights:

Whats it about?

The Peanuts Movie enjoys a very simple story about Charlie Brown, a kid branded as the biggest blockhead in the neighborhood, and his efforts to convince an adorable new girl on the block that hes more than his seemingly accurate reputation.

Like the classic animated features before it, Peanuts pauses often for setup gags and side stories which celebrate the rest of the cast especially Charlie Browns best friend and loyal beagle, Snoopy.

The upgrades

Sans a few small exceptions, Blue Sky Studios found an impressive visual balance between Charles M. Schulzs classic strips and the contemporary CG spectacle. In fact, there are scenes that seamlessly incorporate both styles side-by-side, showing off the creative teams commitment to preserving the nostalgic charm of Schulzs original works.

For kids who demand the slick presentation of sweeping landscapes and perfectly smooth animation, there are enough on-screen shiny objects to easily meet their eye-candy quota. And for the rest of us who miss the changing lines of classically drawn animation, well, there are a few squiggly pen strokes thrown in for us as well.

You know, for kids

There is a wonderful innocence to The Peanuts Movie that has become something of an anomaly in Hollywood even when a title is referred to as family entertainment.

Embracing its G rating, Peanuts is about as innocent a movie as its intended audience, and that will be welcome news for both parents and guardians wanting to take their favorite 4-to-8-year-olds on a movie date this weekend. There are no winks to older audiences or unnecessary over-their-head suggestions slipped in. Peanuts definitely gets an A when it comes to knowing its audience.

Forget the title

If theres one thing The Peanuts Movie got right, its the spirit of the original. But how does Peanuts stand up as its own film? Will the movie work for the non-Peanuts fan?

As previously mentioned, the film exists for younger audiences. Anyone over the age of 10 planning to attend had better be well acquainted with their inner-child. The conflict is innocent, the message is simple and the punchlines would feel right at home on a Laffy Taffy wrapper or I guess Peanuts comicstrip. If you can embrace that, the rest of the elements are there.

Peanuts has characters youll care about and a central quest for its protagonist. Its funny, its sweet, and it manages an ending that changes the characters while still maintaining their identities. On a high level, its pretty solid storytelling.

Conclusion

It will become immediately obvious to the cynics that Bryan and Craig Schultz respect and love this property as much as the fans do. While some of its best moments have been lifted right from the archives, the new additions are just as heartfelt and sincere as its source material, and fans will recognize its honest intentions.

With so many elements necessary to make a successful Peanuts feature, the finished product is actually pretty impressive. In the end, The Peanuts Movie lands easily as one of the best animated features of the year.