The Bock’s Office: Good grief — ‘Peanuts’ revamp is great!
At this point, we’re not unfamiliar with a world where a doghouse doubles as a Sopwith Camel, all adults sound similar to a trombone solo and no one questions why a child is almost completely bald. Still, a return to one of the most beloved series of the past 60 years feels the same as visiting old friends and finding a new reason to love them in “The Peanuts Movie.”
If you go…
“The Peanuts Movie,” rated G
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 93 minutes
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Starring the voices of: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets and Bill Melendez.
Life is the same as it ever is for good ol’ Charlie Brown (voice of Noah Schnapp): crashing kites, failing at sports and generally being the goat of his group of his friends. The precocious kid has a new reason for anxiety, however, when a new girl (Francesca Angelucci Capaldi) moves in across the street and joins his class, leaving him lovestruck.
Advice from Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller) and Linus (Alex Garfin) does little to help him as he spends the school year trying to get the attention of the girl of his dreams, but with the help of his faithful dog, Snoopy (Bill Melendez), Charlie Brown may be able to finally get the happy ending he’s always wanted.
He’s been voiced by many boys throughout the years, but the kid who’s almost never referred to by only his first name gets a fine tone in burgeoning young actor Schnapp — just the right amount of wishy-washiness and indomitable optimism for the underdog with whom you can’t help but identify in his many attempts to be liked.
Miller is also right as Lucy, the girl who’s always there to pull away the football, both literally and figuratively, even when she’s trying to be helpful. You’d think her rates for psychoanalysis would go have gone up from one nickel per session by now, but a bargain is a bargain.
It’d be nice if we got to see more of blanket-loving Linus beyond just picking up his pal when he needs it, but Garfin also serves as the narrator for a story-within-a-story of a World War I flying ace you might recognize.
Snoopy is a critical component of any “Peanuts” piece, and to not do the boisterous beagle justice would be abhorrent. Thankfully, old recordings of the late Bill Melendez as the world’s most imaginative dog and little yellow companion Woodstock are utilized to great effect, with the advancements of animation making their flights of fancy look better than they ever have.
A Snoopy who articulates with a celebrity voice would have been a disaster, but Kristin Chenoweth as his fantasy crush and fellow aviator, Fifi, is perfection.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it — Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip characters are as enjoyable today as when they first graced the funny pages, and it’s grand to see a crew that understands that, led by Steve Martino in his third outing for Blue Sky Studios, easily the best yet from the company that had yet to find a project on the level of Pixar or DreamWorks.
This hardly needs the “Ice Age” short at the beginning, but it never hurts to have extra material.
With dozens of TV specials and a few feature films already, you’d think we’d be bored of the gang by now, especially since this adventure touches on so much we’ve already seen — the barely glimpsed Little Red-Haired Girl is named Heather, by the way, as devoted fans already know — but it looks and feels fresh, realistic when it needs to be without cynicism and altogether a successful endeavor to keep “Peanuts” relevant for generations to come without really needing to change anything other than processing two-dimensional drawings as CGI.
As long as we still have some semblance of Vince Guaraldi’s music and that zig-zag shirt is still in our hero’s closet.
All that holds back “The Peanuts Movie” is a story that tries to do too much with too many minor but important folks — Sally, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Schroeder, Franklin and Pig-Pen, to name a few — yet it still works great. And, if your gripe is that they’re attempting to make everyone happy, you really are a blockhead.
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