Re­view: ‘Peanuts’ a sweet, sat­is­fy­ing 3D romp for the beloved gang

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Contents - By Sandy Cohen AP En­ter­tain­ment Writer

MAYBE the Peanuts gang hasn’t been on the big screen in decades be­cause they’ve had so much suc­cess on the small one, with spe­cials like “The Great Pump­kin” and “A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas” that have been an­nual TV tra­di­tions since the 1960s.

Thank­fully, “The Peanuts Movie” isn’t just a small-screen spe­cial writ large. The film­mak­ers take ad­van­tage of their cin­e­matic scope with a big­ger story, more so­phis­ti­cated an­i­ma­tion and ef­fec­tive use of 3-D that gives new depth to the Peanuts world. But the char­ac­ters loved by gen­er­a­tions of fans — Lucy, Li­nus, Snoopy, Wood­stock and beloved block­head Char­lie Brown — are as charm­ing and time­less as ever.

It’s been 35 years since the last Peanuts film, 1980’s “Bon Voy­age, Char­lie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!). The gang’s other the­atri­cal out­ings were “A Boy Named Char­lie Brown” in 1969, “Snoopy, Come Home” in 1972, and 1977’s “Race for Your Life, Char­lie Brown.”

“The Peanuts Movie,” writ­ten by the son and grand­son of Peanuts cre­ator Charles M. Schulz,

doesn’t cover new the­matic ter­ri­tory, but it doesn’t really need to. Re­ly­ing on 50 years of char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment, the Peanuts gang stays true to their orig­i­nal selves — there’s no new edge or post-mod­ern snark in the mix. The cen­tral con­cepts (be hon­est, be your­self, do your best) are as gen­tle as the curves of Char­lie Brown’s sil­hou­ette.

There are two si­mul­ta­ne­ous sto­ries at play in the film: one set in the “real world” of Char­lie Brown and his friends, and a more fan­tas­ti­cal tale of Snoopy as his al­ter-ego, the Fly­ing Ace.

“The Peanuts Movie” opens dur­ing win­ter­time, and a snowy in­tro­duc­tory scene with Wood­stock sets view­ers up for the 3-D ex­pe­ri­ence. Char­lie Brown and the gang are ex­cited about a new kid mov­ing into their neigh­bor­hood. She turns out to be the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl, and Char­lie is in­stantly smit­ten.

School starts up again, bring­ing a se­ries of chal­lenges. First of all, the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl is in Char­lie’s class.

“I just came down with a se­ri­ous case of in­ad­e­quacy,” he says.

Then there is the tal­ent show, school-wide tests, book re­ports and other kid-sized hur­dles to over­come. The story fol­lows the gang through the school year, fo­cus­ing on Char­lie’s foibles. Sally Brown plays a sup­port­ing role. Ev­ery­thing looks as color­ful and round as the comic strip.

Mean­while, Snoopy types him­self into a high­fly­ing ad­ven­ture atop his dog­house as he bat­tles his neme­sis, the Red Baron. Th­ese se­quences are dis­tin­guished by more re­al­is­tic back­ground an­i­ma­tion — snowy moun­tains and grassy land­scapes that look more like the world out­side the movie theater. Snoopy’s Fly­ing Ace, aided by a team of Wood­stock me­chan­ics, flies off in pur­suit of his love, Fifi, just as Char­lie Brown tries to work up the nerve to in­tro­duce him­self to the Lit­tle Red-Haired Girl.

Di­rec­tor Steve Martino cast child ac­tors to voice the Peanuts gang, and used vin­tage record­ings of late ac­tor-pro­ducer Bill Me­len­dez to re­al­ize Snoopy and Wood­stock’s inim­itable ex­pres­sions. A catchy new song con­trib­uted by pop star Meghan Trainor is a bouncy bonus.

While “The Peanuts Movie” may lack the winkwink wis­dom aimed at adults of­ten found in Pixar re­leases, it re­tains the whole­some ap­peal of those stal­wart TV spe­cials. The 3-D makes it look mod­ern, but the Peanuts’ sweet­ness is sat­is­fy­ingly old-fash­ioned. Three stars out of four.

Snoopy and Char­lie Brown from Charles Schulz’s time­less “Peanuts” comic strip in their big-screen de­but in a CG-an­i­mated fea­ture film in 3D, “The Peanuts Movie.”

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