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With: Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets, Alex Garfin, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Venus Omega Schultheis, Rebecca Bloom, Marlieik "Mar Mar" Walker, Noah Johnston, Madisyn Shipman, Anastasia Bredikhina, Micah Revelli, AJ Tecce, William "Alex" Wunsch, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, Bill Melendez (voices)
Written by: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano, based on a comic strip by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by: Steve Martino
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 88
Date: 11/06/2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

All 'Good,' No 'Grief'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" characters are such a huge part of so many childhoods — from comic strips and books to TV specials and movies — that the makers of the new The Peanuts Movie must have felt they were skating on thin ice trying to acknowledge everything.

Directed by Steve Martino and co-written by Schulz's son Craig and grandson Bryan, The Peanuts Movie betrays a few moments of uncertainty that upset the movie's easy flow.

Of course, no one except Charles, who died in 2000, could have written a movie exactly the way he wanted it, but this team has done an admirable job anyway. On the whole, their finished product is warmhearted, gentle, and funny.

The filmmakers decided to make poor bad-luck Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) into a character worth admiring; they have focused on the "you're a good man" aspect and made him into an honest, hopeful soul.

However, when bad things happen to him, like a kite-eating tree or a fire alarm sprinkler, these moments play more like big slapstick than they do clever humor. He's more sympathetic, and we're more reluctant to laugh at him.

The story takes place over the course of a school year, as Charlie Brown tries to win the affection of the Little Red-Haired Girl (voiced by Francesca Capaldi) without actually having the nerve to speak to her.

He eventually gets a top test score and temporarily becomes the school hero; his sister Sally (Mariel Sheets) cashes in and sells t-shirts and mugs.

Meanwhile, Linus (voiced by Alexander Garfin) produces a model of the Red Baron's plane, providing an origin story for Snoopy's World War One Flying Ace (Snoopy and Woodstock's voices were provided by the late Bill Melendez).

Snoopy's fantasy doghouse flying sequences are now 3D action spectaculars, with lots of gravity-defying close calls, and attempts to rescue a female beagle named Fifi.

With the help of a laid-back score by Christophe Beck — which pays tribute to the great Vince Guaraldi — the movie allows time for self-contained segments, including Lucy (voiced by Hadley Belle Miller) charging five cents for psychiatric help.

Even the computer-generated animation is designed to honor the original, flat drawings, and although it feels sometimes strange, it's comfortably familiar most other times.

The Peanuts Movie isn't quite as unique as a Charles Schulz original might have been, but taken side-by-side with previous motion pictures like Snoopy Come Home (1972) and Race for Your Life Charlie Brown (1977), it's a worthy addition to the supper dish.

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