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Tuesday, November 03 2015 13:43

Review: THE PEANUTS MOVIE Brings Modern Visuals to a Classic Story

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Growing up a fan of Charles M. Schulz' beloved PEANUTS series, I've written at length about Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the whole PEANUTS Gang as it relates to being an grownup - my wife and I raising two young daughters of our own. When Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox announced THE PEANUTS MOVIE (which I first wrote about back in October of 2012), what concerned me wasn't that the PEANUTS would be presented in CGI (and in 3D!) for the very first time, but how the filmmakers would approach what would be 65 years of storied history - and if, in 2015, there would be an audience for it. While we've introduced the world of PEANUTS to our children, Charlie Brown and Co. just haven't seemed as prevalent with their little friends - not like it was when we were kids and everyone loved Snoopy. Keeping the PEANUTS tradition alive is what really appealed to me when I joined PEANUTS Worldwide as a Brand Ambassador earlier this year, but like most audiences and critics, I did not get a look at THE PEANUTS MOVIE until it had its premiere screenings this past Sunday. Seeing it with an audience - in a packed theater - was the perfect way to see if Director Steve Martino (HORTON HEARS A WHO!, ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT) had successfully translated the iconic characters into a new realm of filmmaking that would resonate with younger audiences.

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. 

Peanuts Tickets - Get them on Fandango!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.

Beautiful day to fly a kite. #Toyography #Chicago #PeanutsMovie

A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on

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.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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