Judging by the slate of films released this year, nostalgia has become the currency of choice for studios and audiences alike. Whether it is the thunderous roar of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World or the sweet sounds of light sabers colliding in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, audiences have been clamouring for updated versions of the things they loved in their youth. It is slowly getting to the point where name recognition has become more important than telling an engaging story.
There are some properties though, such as The Peanuts Movie, where the target audience is so far removed from the source material that banking on nostalgia is a risky proposition. Instead of merely cashing in on The Peanuts name, or attempting to revamp it into something unrecognizable, Steve Martino’s film succeeds in part because it never feels like it is a slave to the source material, nor does it veer too far astray from it. Similar to Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strips, The Peanuts Movie captures the insecurity and sense of imagination that makes childhood both nerve-racking and magical at the same time.
The story finds everyone’s favourite underachiever, Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapps), falling for the Little Red-Haired Girl who moves in across the street. While Charlie works up the courage to talk to the girl of his dreams, his trusted beagle Snoopy (voiced by Bill Melendez via archival recordings) attempts to, in literary form, defeat the ruthless Red Baron and save the damsel-in-distress in the process. Along the way both Charlie Brown and Snoopy encounter a cast of familiar characters, and endure several comical moments, that will no doubt bring a smile to both newcomers and seasoned fans.
While there are several nods to classic Peanuts moments, such as Charlie Brown’s inability to master flying a kite or Snoopy envisioning himself as the World War I Flying Ace, Martino incorporates them so seamlessly that the film never feels like it is merely checking off boxes. This allows The Peanuts Movie to evoke a childlike sense of wonder that is rather infectious. It is hard not to be charmed by the film when witnessing Snoopy, while sitting on top of his dog house, visualizes himself taking part in thrilling dogfights in the sky. Imagination and genuine heart swirl in the air of the film with the same ease as the dust that surrounds Pig-Pen.
The choice to cast actual child actors to voice the peanuts gang only furthers to the sense of innocence that the film channels. Rather than distracting the audience with the voice talents of big name stars, like he did with his previous film Ice Age: Continental Drift, though Kristin Chenoweth does voice Snoopy’s love interest Fifi, Martino ensures that the viewer is truly immersed in the wonderful world that Charlie Brown lives in. Endlessly delightful and smart enough to please fans, while introducing Schulz’s characters to a whole new legion young viewers, The Peanuts Movie, much like its main character, is full of surprises. Its heart and earnestness will charm audiences of all ages.