I actually wanted to go see this movie in the cinema last Christmas, but because of the stress of moving and spending Christmas abroad (and Star Wars, okay, a whole lot of Star Wars), I missed it. Not that big a deal, to be frank: The Peanuts Movie works best when it’s an intimiate TV-level affair, and falters precisely when it tries
to be more.
I’m not exactly what you call a Peanuts fan. I have a basic understanding of the franchise, read a cross-section of the comics, watched the Christmas and Halloween specials a couple of times as a kid, and I played a Snoopy game on Game Boy (it was hard) – but I’m by no means a fanboy. Okay, reading that sentence again, that might not entirely be true. But in defense, I didn’t even know this movie was coming out until there was a 5-cent therapy booth at Potsdamer Platz (unfortunately, the doctor was not in).
The Peanuts movie – surprise incoming – centers around the titular characters, with in the middle: Charlie Brown, who is in love and will do anything to not have to go win the lucky lady’s heart. For some reason, Charlie Brown is considered an American hero, like Mickey Mouse or Rambo – described as an eternal optimist who never gives up, no matter how often Lucy pulls away that darn football. I never quite understood that: To me, Charlie Brown is a coward, who needs his friends (and dog) to get anything done. This makes for an interesting – but highly frustrating – main character: He might say he’s always trying to get the best outcome, but really he’s trying to get out of doing anything. Charlie Brown is not a man of action, and I’m amazed they actually managed to create a coherent, funny and touching story around him.
Somehow, it felt like the movie’s creators had the same fear, too. That’s why they decided to devote about a third of the flick’s screentime to Snoopy and his overactive imagination. Snoopy’s the exact opposite of Charlie Brown: He’s a dreamer, a hands-on happy-go-lucky dog who can go on any adventure possible. The Peanuts Movie opts to bring back the flying dog shed and the red baron. These sequences go all out on action and chases like there was some leftover budget in a drawer somewhere and they had no other option than to spend them.
I know, for some people, Snoopy going all-out bonkers is Peanuts. I just found the sequences stylistically bland and completely forgettable. Suddenly, I was watching a regular animated movie and not a wonderfully crafted, somewhat extraordinary slice of Schulz-like animation.
Because this movie does look wonderful – in a way that perfectly encapsulates The Peanuts universe imagined by Charles Schulz. The characters seem to be missing frames when they move, they switch from the typical Schulz 3/4-frontal perspective to profile with no frames in between the way he drew them, and the colours mimic the TV specials perfectly. The Peanuts Movie is a perfect modern interpretation of a franchise that no one really knew how to bring back to the screen.
If you’re like me and you missed this movie in theaters, be like me and watch it on TV. I think it’s the best way to experience The Peanuts. And I won’t tell anyone you fast-forwarded through the Snoopy bits.