‘Peanuts’ gets the flavour just right
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.