Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Peanuts Movie ★★★

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    I must confess. The "Peanuts" gang, a lovable and endearing microcosm of the adolescent world, has been around for more than half a century, and, well, I never expected to find these comic strip-based characters on the silver screen in what seems to be an era defined by fleeting fads and the latest technological trends. I mean, the adventures of Charlie Brown and friends have been with us ever since the Second World War, and let's be honest, their popularity has surely waned in the face of more recent animated arrivals such as SpongeBob SquarePants. (This, of course, is in reference to a demographic consisting of children aged ten years and younger.)

    Outside of the annual airings of the still popular "Peanuts" holiday specials, I'm afraid that our target audience here may not even acknowledge their existence. Maybe that's because the gang's exploits have little to do with texting, and they consistently aim to inspire.

    Yet, here is "The Peanuts Movie," a film that is destined to be ignored by even the most youthful of preteens, and, generally speaking, it is a picture that probably should have been made many, many years agowhen adolescents were more likely to care. Quite frankly, I'm not even sure if the bulk of the material will be readily understood by our little ones, except, of course, for the situational humor and physical comedy provided by the ever-scintillating Snoopy. For, the success of the original comic strip hinged on one's empathy for the central protagonist, Charlie Brown, who, I suppose, must be the biggest sufferer of cosmic irony I've ever seen. And although younger viewers may emit a cry of laughter as a ramification of Brown's bungling, I don't believe they will wholly understand what makes this lovable loser so darn charming. (As adults, we can see Charlie Brown for what he truly is: a caricature of the average individual amidst their everyday struggle between optimism and pessimism. In many ways, he is a portrait of truths.)

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    This is a rare instance, I think, in which an animated picture, manufactured specifically as the perfect family film for the Thanksgiving holiday, appeals more to the child within us as mature adults. It will undoubtedly come across as a gentle reminder of a much simpler time, especially for viewers who grew up with these rather winsome personalities.

    The plot is just as we left it; we know the score. Lucy is still very much a bully, Linus remains as best friend to Charlie, and Pig-Pen, well, Pig-Pen continues to be pestered by a perpetual sense of dirtiness. This is not to mention Charlie's habitual ineptness and a Snoopy subplot that almost steals the show. (In fact, Snoopy's high-flying sequences only served as proof of the computer's ability to produce a viable product on screen. I've been somewhat critical of the artificial technology in the past; however, hand-drawn animation would never have succeeded here.) In essence, it is the exact same storyline found in "You're in Love, Charlie Brown," which merely sees our maladroit leading participant in a continuous struggle to gain the affections of the Little Red-Haired Girl and thwart the pains of unrequited love.

    Two things can be taken away from "The Peanuts Movie": For adults, we can enjoy a memorable depiction of love at its finest, before the ills of adulthood take hold and transform it into something seemingly unnatural. As for the take-home theme for children, we are given a message that highlights the nobleness of perseverance, and, maybe even unknowingly, it provides a new perspective on our ungainly old friend.

    Even though I began this review with a simple statement of disbelief, when it comes right down to it, I should never have been surprised by this particular revamping. I mean, we are truly witnessing one of the worst cinematic periods in all of film history; it may very well end up being designated as the "Decade of Remakes." Remember the summer of 1982? When original pictures such as "E.T." and "Bladerunner" were only separated by a few weeks? If you do, then you may begin to understand my distress. At least, the writers behind "The Peanuts Movie" (who just so happen to be Charles Schulz's son and grandson) were able to avoid that dreaded avant-garde mentality, which is a more commendable act than even the product that was given to us. They changed little about Charlie Brown and his gang of misfits and portrayed them in their natural form. That fact alone makes this film noteworthy.

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