All weekend, when I mentioned to people that I had to go see The Peanuts Movie, they’d tell me, in hushed tones, as to not be overheard, that they don’t really like Peanuts. When one friend told me this, I responded facetiously that they’re an American institution, to which he said, “That’s not enough to get me to like something.” I mention this not to brag somehow about the taste of the company I keep, but to instead note how deeply ingrained this unconditional love of Charles Schulz’ creation is in our culture. I myself have no special connection to Peanuts besides finding it appropriately quaint and inoffensive and thinking the “Linus and Lucy” song is really catchy.
But that’s about it. I didn’t grow up on animated TV shows and as a kid only casually read the comic strips. There’s no grand nostalgia in my heart when I think about Charlie Brown and company. That being said, I can tell that there are things wrong with The Peanuts Movie, a somewhat modernized repackaging of Schulz’ comic strip. The basic pieces of what an audience expects from Peanuts are all here — Charlie Brown and his constant, infinite failures, Lucy’s overbearing attitude, Snoopy doing Snoopy stuff. There’s a painstaking attention to this stuff. But reboots and re-imaginings tend to rely too heavily on in-references and The Peanuts Movie does this to the point that it feels like the greatest hits of Peanuts, something that gets tiresome by the time the final credits roll.
At the same time, the entire look of Schulz’ work has been modernized with computer animation. This is fine in theory, but the overall look and style of the animation is far from striking. There’s no real style to it. Not helping all this is the overall tone of the film. The plot is pretty bare-bones, with Charlie Brown fighting his inherent good nature and general ineptness while he tries to grab the attention of The Little Red Haired Girl. But the comedy itself relies far too much on slapstick. It’s a surprisingly manic film, one that never settles down. While I can sit here and argue that this betrays some sacred spirit of Peanuts, the film — on its own — just isn’t good, being a bit too noisy to be entertaining. But, at the same time — and I hate myself for typing this — it isn’t very Peanuts, since the whole approach — the animation, the tone — betrays the inherent quaintness of Schulz’ creation. Really, what it boils down to is that all the film has to set itself apart from every other animated film out there is the quiet nature of a time long passed — something the film only captures by missing it entirely. Rated G