Making the jump from hand-drawn, 2D animation into the realm of computer-generated 3D isn't jarring at all for the PEANUTS gang, and those who've already seen the trailers should be able to understand that. The 3D lends itself to some interesting moments throughout the film, and while the more "epic" moments are where it certainly "wows" the audience, it's simple things like layers of falling snowflakes that I appreciate - details that call back to the simplicity of the original television specials and animated features.
What's important with THE PEANUTS MOVIE is that Martino (working from a screenplay by Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz and Cornelius Uliano) went with the "if it ain't broke" approach, keeping intact (again) the simplicity that makes PEANUTS work. We open in what appears to be hand-drawn black-and-white, quickly morphing into the new world of pixels and shading. The characters don't need an introduction, and we're dropped right into a world both familiar and different - dual mirroring plots (Snoopy seeking the affection of Fifi, Charlie Brown enamored by The Little Red-Haired Girl) leading the action, while familiar scenes and elements from the past are brought back, but not overtly highlighted. Whether it's Charlie Brown and that evil kite-eating tree, or Lucy still charging just $0.05 for "Psychiatric Help" in 2015, those are the fabric of what PEANUTS is, and seeing Snoopy and Woodstock go full-on Red Baron hunting on the big-screen is a treat. Fact is, many of the new generation experiencing THE PEANUTS MOVIE is doing so without a built-in loyalty. Something for the old-school, something for the new, and at the end of the day, it's all a classic story of Charlie Brown just wanting to come out on top... just for once.
While FROZEN composer Christophe Beck was charged with the daunting task of stepping into a role previously held by the great Vince Guaraldi, never fear - those classic piano notes are still here. While Beck did craft some sweeping orchestral pieces here and there, Guaraldi's timeless themes are still well-represented. While there is somewhat of a musical clash between styles, songs by Beck and Guaraldi do manage to work fine together. If anything, my only true criticism of THE PEANUTS MOVIE lies within the soundtrack - and it's the tacked-on tracks by Flo Rida ("That's What I Like" feat. Fitz) and Meghan Trainor ("Better When I'm Dancin'"). In fact, Rida's track (also featured in trailers) is actually not bad, but Trainor's grating inflections ("moo-sic" instead of "music") sully an otherwise great soundtrack.
Overall, THE PEANUTS MOVIE is one of 2015's biggest treats - effectively bringing modern visuals to a classic story. And funny enough, it's coming out just a month ahead of a movie with "Star Wars" in the title... something that happened once before, way back in 1977 when my favorite PEANUTS feature first hit screens - RACE FOR YOUR LIFE, CHARLIE BROWN. The very film that solidified my love of PEANUTS, just as I expect THE PEANUTS MOVIE to do for my girls.
THE PEANUTS MOVIE is rated G. Get tickets now via Fandango.