Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

The legendary Charles Schulz comicstrip gets a modern day movie adaptation care of 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, with two members of his family behind the story, yet despite that last bit of info, I was still worried. You'd be forgiven for being worried too in this day and age. I cringed at the thought of this movie in all honesty, it terrified me, growing up with Snoopy and co, how could the modern day Hollywood monster do this epic creation justice? Thoughts of newly created PC characters crowbarred in, lots of hip hop music, dreadful big name voice work with pointless cameos, oh my God! you could just see it coming. Luckily none of that actually did happen (amazingly...accept for the music), so lets be happy.

As for the plot, well its a simple little thing really, in true Schulz form. Good old Charlie Brown is kinda eeking his way through life, trying his best and not really getting very far, as we all know and love. In the meantime good old Snoopy is up to his good old tricks whilst having his dreamy daydreams about flying against the dastardly Red Baron in his trusty doghouse/bi-plane. All of a sudden (not really) a new girl moves into the sleepy neighbourhood, a little red headed girl, to whom Charlie Brown instantly falls for. What follows are Charlie Brown's attempts at getting the little red headed girls attention in any way he can...without making a fool of himself. As I'm sure you're all aware, this doesn't really go well for old Charlie but nevertheless, he keeps at it and eventually comes out on top (spoiler alert...Charlie Brown comes out on top...duh!).

Now the main highlight for this movie is obviously the visuals. When the film was announced I was pretty sure this would look terrible, it would lose all of the charm from Schulz's comicstrip, OK...I was wrong, but come on, how many thought the same thing huh. As it turns out the original Schulz designs are perfectly adapted and complimented by the use of CGI, yes everything is CGI, but its tastefully done and recreates the original material amazingly well. In all honesty it doesn't actually look like CGI for the most part, if you ask me, it looks more like a glossy South Park episode to me with that flat 2D appearance. This is one reason why it works so well, the visuals combine both the 3D and 2D element, giving the best of both worlds, making it feel fresher, different and all the time keeping the classic Schulz style (kinda like the later Street Fighter II games ya know).

Seriously though, when I say they have kept the Schulz style in one piece, that's exactly what I mean, I don't just mean they skimmed the surface. Remember how the classic Charlie Brown gang used to dance in school? all those quirky and unusual little jigs? well they are perfectly recreated here. All those classic facial expressions from Brown and co, their funny little hairstyles, Pigpen's clouds of dirt, the characters stances, the way they move, Snoopy's little happy dances, the little dotted line trail Woodstock leaves behind when he flies around, adult characters represented by a trombone etc...its all here. What's more, they even manage to include some oldschool black and white animation harking back to the old days, not sure if it was actually old footage or not, don't think so, but all the same it was a sweet little touch.

The one thing that did disappoint me was the music included (same old I'm afraid). Now admittedly the film wasn't filled with horrendous modern trashy music, thankfully they kept the more chirpy to humdrum tunes and sounds from the original material. But alas they just couldn't help themselves, and to that degree we do unfortunately get some sequences accompanied by some atrocious modern claptrap that completely pulls you out of the moment, it ruins the atmosphere. Seeing Snoopy and co getting up to their cutesy hijinks whilst some RnB/hip hop (whatever) music plays, is tantamount to heresy! I hated every second of it. Then of course they have to continue the trend over the end credits, sheesh!

Another tiny issue I had, that did actually become a larger issue, was Snoopy's plot line. Snoopy spends much of his time in dream sequences fighting against the Red Baron atop of his doghouse. Now while this was very cool, very well done and was perfectly recreated along with everything else, there was a little too much of it. The whole idea was sweet at first but became a bit mundane quickly. Yes we know Snoopy hates the Red Baron, yes we know he will rescue his female counterpart and we know the Red Baron will get away to fight another day. But did we really need this to take up virtually the entire movie? I really wanted to see Snoopy interact with the others a bit more in all honesty, its not a massive huge flaw or anything, but it stands out enough to be fair. The rest of the gang are given reasonable amounts of screen time but again some could of done with a bit more (and less of Snoopy flying around), background characters like Pigpen, Schroeder and Franklin I always found more interesting.

To be honest, I was never much of a Charlie Brown/Snoopy fan growing up, I knew of them, saw the odd special on TV (was never overly enthralled by them) and had the odd cuddly toy of Snoopy. I don't really know much about the Peanuts lore and don't pretend to, but despite that I can't deny this was a great old fashioned heart-warmer updated with some lovely CGI work. Whether everyone would enjoy this I don't know, kids will I'm sure but they probably won't be up on the whole franchise backstory side of things. Older folk...sure, or at least oldschool fans will, not sure about non-fans though, it might seem a bit too babyish to them. Overall its a very simplistic and basic premise which has been executed wonderfully, everything looks spot on from the locations to the characters attire, they all sound just right and the use of archive sound footage from Bill Melendez (Snoopy) was an awesome touch. This is a completely, near perfect, faithful adaptation of a much loved classic.