You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The Peanuts Movie marks the first feature film based on Charles Schulz’s beloved comic strip since his death in 2000, yet it absolutely retains the sweet spirit of the characters, thanks to a warm screenplay by son Craig Schultz, grandson Bryan Schulz and Cornelius Uriano, and charming direction by Steve Martino.

The story essentially tells a year in the life of perennial bumbler Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp), and his repeated – and repeatedly thwarted – attempts to get to know the Little Red-Haired Girl (voiced by Francesca Capaldi) with whom he is smitten. The gang’s all here, and it’s nice to see them again.

With a bevy of in-jokes clearly aimed at long-time Peanuts fans, this is an easy, pleasant stroll through nostalgia for all ages. The animated backgrounds are sometimes more elaborately designed – particularly in those sequences where Charlie Brown’s faithful beagle Snoopy daydreams of being a World War I flying ace – but the simplicity of the character design remains intact. By not messing with a tried-and-true formula, The Peanuts Movie strengthens the foundation of that formula. It wasn’t broken; it didn’t need fixing.

The voices of Snoopy and his feathered friend Woodstock are again provided by Bill Melendez, who directed many of the TV specials but who died in 2008. This too was a wise move on the part of the filmmakers, for who was – or is – better suited than he? Amusingly, the voice of Snoopy’s aviatrix love interest Fifi is provided by Kristin Chenoweth, although one would be hardpressed to recognize it.

Blue Sky Animation, which produced the film, also include an Ice Age short, Cosmic Skrat-astrophe, preceding the main feature. As well as offering an early plug for the next Ice Age feature (currently on the drawing board, no pun intended), it also provides a side-splitting explanation for the Big Bang Theory. It all started with a walnut and a desperate prehistoric rodent … !