Snoopy and Charlie Brown – The Peanuts Movie (2015)

SnoopyWhen a new, red-haired girl joins his class, Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) is determined that she should see him for the good, kind-hearted person he is, rather than the hopeless clutz his classmates believe him to be. After seeking council from Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), Charlie comes to the conclusion that confidence is key, and throws himself into a number of new hobbies in the hope that one of them might impress the new girl. Charlie’s crush rubs off on Snoopy (Bill Melendez), his beagle, who conjured up a love interest of his own using an old typewriter salvaged from his master’s school. Together with Woodstock, he embarks on an imagined adventure to free Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) from the clutches of a evil pilot.

It’s been a strange year for animation — both DreamWorks and Pixar have disappointed over the last twelve months, the former with Home and the latter with The Good Dinosaur — leaving the genre to be ruled by other, less illustrious studios. Inside Out was good fun, and garnered some very enthusiastic reviews, but 2015’s best animations have come from rather more surprising sources. The Ireland-based Cartoon Saloon gave us Song of the Sea, Paramount Animation gave us The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, and now Blue Sky — you heard that right, Blue Sky — has given us Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie, a computer-generated revamp of the familiar characters immortalised in Charles M. Schulz’ comic strips.

Perhaps inevitably, the film is preceded by an uninspiring Ice Age short (as I said, Blue Sky), in which Scrat, having finished rearranging the tectonic plates, heads out into space to play pool with the other planets (really). It’s the studio at its worst, and doesn’t exactly bode well for what is to follow. After all, it wasn’t that long that another classic cartoon character — Postman Pat — was given the Hollywood treatment, which resulted in not only one of the worst movies of 2014, but one of the most misjudged adaptations of all time. Not that it’s easy to make a dated character relevant to new audiences, but thankfully director Steve Martino knows better than to pit Charlie Brown against an army of robot doppelgangers. There is a talent show, admittedly, but it’s not judged by Simon Cowbell.

No, The Peanuts Movie opts for a more honest approach, clearly realising that although popular culture may have changed considerably since Charlie Brown’s heyday in the 50s, the things children want from it really hasn’t. Children’s cinema is full of lovable losers, many of whom have likely been inspired by Charlie Brown, and it’s the character’s insecurities that form the focus of the resultant film. Unlike other CGI animations preoccupied with pushing the envelope or pandering to parents, Martino’s has aimed his squarely at a younger audience, who are unlikely to be interested in realism or innuendo. That said, Blue Sky have done a tremendous job of translating the original artwork to the big screen, and whether it’s the dirt-cloud shadowing Pig-Pen or the imagined adventures of Snoopy and Woodstock in their ongoing antagonism with the Red Baron, the animation — and its 3D conversion — are beautifully rendered.

The story might never match the animation in terms of sophistication, but there is a simplicity and sweetness to it that is just irresistible. Charlie Brown might have surprised himself, but Blue Sky have surely surprised us all.