THE PEANUTS MOVIE
I am not entirely sure if I should review The Peanuts Movie as a fantasy film it seems to be a whimsical piece about a regular slice of American childhood hence mundane in nature. However, I reasoned that when you have a film that involves a dog displaying intelligence in helping the hero in his endeavours, employing a typewriter, even employing disguises to try and get into school and dances, while drifting off into Walter Mitty-like daydreams about being a flying ace, it is hard not to see it as a work of absurdism if not fantasy.
Here the Schulz estate have chosen to team up with Blue Sky Studios, something that made me little enthused about going to see The Peanuts Movie. Blue Sky have become one of the leading studios in mainstream animation since their first appearance thirteen years before this. I liked their first two films Ice Age (2002) and Robots (2005). Thereafter though, Blue Sky slipped into making an interminable number of sequels to Ice Age Ice Age 2 (2006), Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) and Ice Age: Collision Course (2016) and occasional original works like Horton Hears a Who! (2008), Rio (2011) and Epic (2013). Their films have become bland and repetitive, recycling a set series of stock animation characters and cues, pitching everything down at a level of cutsie laughs, gags and pop culture references. It is at their door that can be laid the interminable sequelitis that every other mainstream animation studio such as Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony and Illumination have now descended.
The presence of the Schulz estate on the project has meant that it The Peanuts Movie comes steeped in reference to a great many familiar aspects of the strips long history references to the Kite-Eating Tree, the Great Pumpkin and the complete absence of adults. There is a long line-up of the strips familiar characters, which reduces most of them to little more than walk-ons with one or two lines and without the complex interactions they had in the original. The ones placed at the forefront are naturally Charlie Brown and Snoopy who became the major characters of the strip from the 1960s onwards. The characters have been rendered in big simplistic circles and shapes, which one supposes is being faithful to the minimalist way that Charles Schulz drew them but in 3D animation this also tends to make them resemble the characters out of South Park (1997 ).
The Blue Sky downside is that the whimsicality and the wry humour that we had in the original Peanuts are either sidelined or simplified. What we get instead are a host of typical Blue Sky comic and wow set-pieces scenes with Snoopy flying through the air and pursuing the Red Baron up the side of the Eiffel Tower and rescuing Fifi from a collapsing zeppelin. Aside from that, there are numerous slapstick sequences with Charlie Brown being dragged along by his kite and skidding across a pond of ice skaters, the chaos with Sally roping the cow at the talent show, Charlies attempts to drag the copy of War and Peace (1869) home on his toboggan or of the model plane going out of control. With Charles Schulz dead, it is difficult to divine what his intent would have been but somehow one suspects that the purpose of the comic-strip was not to create the sort of slapstick set-pieces that children love or the pieces of empty eye-candy and wow that Blue Sky seem to throw into every film. Nor do I suspect Schulz would have been hugely in favour of the insertion of a series of banal contemporary pop songs on the soundtrack. At least the film does arrive at an ending that offers a sweet uplift that works rather nicely.