This really could’ve gone wrong in so many different ways. Hollywood is currently in an unbreakable fever of rehashing everything. There doesn’t seem to be a remake or sequel they won’t greenlight. Also, given our disorienting pop culture landscape right now, it doesn’t feel like anything is sacred these days. Even the best of intentions will come under fire on social media or elsewhere. So it’s with enormous satisfaction that I can say that last year’s “Peanuts” movie helps continue the institution that is Charles M. Schultz’s creation. Despite being computer-animated, it’s almost as if these characters never left us.
Being Peanuts, the plot isn’t terribly surprising. A new kid moves into town (The Little Red-Haired Girl), and Charlie Brown falls hopelessly in love with her. In addition to his quest, the Peanuts universe thrives with the same characters we all know and cherish, especially Snoopy, who has his own subplot imaging himself as the WWI Flying Ace falling in love with a poodle (voiced, believe it or not, by Kristin Chenoweth) and saving her when she gets captured.
Also being Peanuts, the characters are just as you remember them. Charlie Brown is the same lovable, neurotic loser who never seems to catch a break in life. Linus still has his trusty blanket with him. Peppermint Patty is still a terrible student. Also, Snoopy and Woodstock are still one of the best duos to ever grace either the comic pages or the screen. As reported in places the “The Washington Post and /Film,” their voices were actually done through archive recordings of the late Bill Meléndez, who created many of the Peanuts animated shorts from way back when.
Also, the animation is better than you’d expect it would be. Yes, it’s done with computers. But, somehow it manages to bring the classic style of Peanuts into a computerized context. You don’t doubt that what you’re watching is Peanuts. That’s one of the movie’s biggest achievements.
Plus, when all is said and done, the “Peanuts” movie is just a great feel-good film. Despite being snubbed by the Academy, it was one of the best animated films to be released last year. Also, it doesn’t fail to tug at the heart. You may be hardened by life and all its doom and gloom, but it’s almost impossible to not feel emotionally attached to Charlie Brown. We identify with them because he helps articulate the self-doubt and neuroses many of us inevitably feel. This also gives depth to the humor that has defined Peanuts as an institution. Also, it takes a heart of stone to not be moved by the climax (which I wouldn’t DARE give away). The movie’s now out on DVD and Blu-Ray, so here’s another chance to celebrate Spring!