‘Peanuts’ gets the flavour just right

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY DON­ALD CLARKE

SNOOPY AND CHAR­LIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE Di­rected by Steve Martino. Fea­tur­ing Noah Sch­napp, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets, Alex Garfin, Francesca An­gelucci Ca­paldi, Bill Me­len­dez. Cert G, gen release, 93mins If you’re a fan of the late Charles Schultz’s long-cher­ished Peanuts comic strip, you likely gulped (or pos­si­bly threw up a lit­tle in your own mouth) upon hear­ing news of a flashy 3D re­boot.

Blue Sky, the an­i­ma­tion bou­tique at­tached, may have pleased mil­lions with its Ice Age se­quence. But the same stu­dio was surely doomed to col­lide cat­a­stroph­i­cally with the melan­cholic 2D uni­verse of Amer­ica’s most fa­mous pre-teen ex­is­ten­tial­ist. Right?

Wrong. Hap­pily, The Peanuts Movie is as loyal as a cer­tain head­lin­ing bea­gle to the source ma­te­rial.

In­deed, the plot is None More Char­lie Brown. Chuck – as he is known to un­fail­ingly won­der­ful Pep­per­mint Patty – would dearly love to im­press the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl who has just moved in across the street. In David Ky­nas­ton’s mag­is­te­rial book Aus­ter­ity Bri­tain, an es­sen­tial study of a re­cov­er­ing na­tion, the au­thor ar­gues that Michael Pow­ell’s in­de­struc­tible The Red Shoes has to do with the pres­sures on con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous women to de­cide be­tween ca­reer and mar­riage. It’s an un­ex­pect­edly pro­saic take on a fa­mously height­ened film, but Ky­nas­ton is right to re­mind us that the film emerged at a time of drab­ness, want and un­cer­tainty. Pow­ell was not con­sciously imag­in­ing a fan­tas­tic (if dark) coun­ter­point to the pow­dered eggs. He and his col­lab­o­ra­tor, Emeric Press­burger, re­mained wed­ded to English magic through­out their ca­reers. Nonethe­less, the film of­fered a fiery jolt to cin­ema­go­ers in 1948. It works dif­fer­ently now –

But, alas, Charles – as he is known to Patty’s faith­ful side­kick Mar­cie – would also like to fly a kite with­out los­ing it to the kite-eat­ing tree. Sadly, Char­lie Brown doesn’t really do kite suc­cess. Or base­ball suc­cess. Or any suc­cess. He is, rather, the very per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Beck­ett’s fa­tal­is­tic maxim: fail again, fail bet­ter. nostal­gia for an era few view­ers re­mem­ber kicks in – but the pic­ture’s power re­mains undi­min­ished.

Cen­tring around a bal­letic adap­ta­tion of a Hans Chris­tian An­der­son story, The Red Shoes wal­lows in fairy-story am­bi­ence through­out. Moira Shearer plays Vic­to­ria, a high- born dancer who falls un­der the sin­is­ter spell of a ruth­less im­pre­sario, Boris Ler­mon­tov (An­ton Wal­brook). Af­ter var­i­ous ups and downs, Ler­mon­tov – a model of the controlling artis­tic ma­niac – de­cides to struc­ture his next great work around his dis­cov­ery. Ten­sions de­velop be­tween Boris, Vicky and her com­poser lover, Ju­lian Craster (Mar­ius Gor­ing). Their trou­bled col­lab­o­ra­tion is The Red Shoes: the story of a woman

The Peanuts Movie is as loyal to the source ma­te­rial as a cer­tain bea­gle

Still, he may have an “in” with the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl: he has picked up a pen­cil she dropped; now if only he had the courage to hand it back.

Com­mend­ably, the film’s 3D im­ages do not ex­clude such old-fash­ioned pen­cilled de­vices as “lines of sight” and oc­ca­sional squig­gles.

The late an­i­ma­tor Bill Me­len­dez con­tin­ues to voice Snoopy and Wood­stock cour­tesy of archival record­ings. Other voices are pro­vided by Real Live Chil­dren. The screen­play, writ­ten by Craig and Bryan Schultz (Charles’ son and grand­son, re­spec­tively), makes a de­cent amount of room for a sub­plot con­cern­ing Snoopy’s imag­ined aerial

End­less, lethal danc­ing: Moira Shearer

driven to end­less, lethal danc­ing by her mag­i­cal footwear.

Pow­ell and Press­burger, whose work was char­ac­terised by lack of com­pro­mise, had an un­clut­tered un­der­stand­ing of the core metaphor. The urge to ri­valry with “The Red Baron”.

Di­rec­tor Steve Martino en­sures that Char­lie Brown re­mains a snark-free zone. There are no nods or winks to­ward older view­ers, nor is there dumb­ing-down for younger ones: psy­chi­atric help is still avail­able at rea­son­able rates from Lucy’s card­board booth.

Purists might ar­gue that the new film is a lit­tle bouncier than Peanuts strips or TV spe­cials of yes­ter­year. Or that we’re never sup­posed to see and hear the lost ob­ject that is the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl. Or that Patty should only ac­knowl­edge Snoopy as “the funny look­ing kid with the big nose”. But we’re just too charmed to care about such teeny caveats. We’re de­lighted to re­port that: you’re a good movie, Char­lie Brown. make art can drive the truly com­mit­ted like a mad­ness that poi­sons ev­ery­day con­cerns.

Just look how that im­pulse took over the film-makers. The Red Shoes de­fied com­mer­cial or­tho­doxy by stag­ing a 20-minute dance fan­tasy that did not ad­vance the plot in any sig­nif­i­cant fash­ion. Jack Cardiff’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy en­gaged with bold colours. Robert Help­mann chore­ographed bril­liantly. The film went on to be­come a sig­nif­i­cant hit and in­spire a com­ing gen­er­a­tion of film-makers. With­out The Red Shoes, we would not have had An Amer­i­can in Paris. Martin Scors­ese, who ad­mits to Ler­mon­tov ten­den­cies, called it “the movie that plays in my heart”. Worth savour­ing in this very dif­fer­ent era.

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