Peanuts was not a comic strip I grew up reading. I was aware of it but I never had the collections or anything. I was entirely consumed by Garfield at a young age and the less said about those movies the better. Having discovered the comics as an adult and reading lots of bio and behind the scenes stuff on Charles Shultz since starting on the path to becoming a cartoonist I now hold Peanuts in high regard as a revolutionary comic strip.
In many ways I was more excited and apprehensive about this movie than I was about Star Wars. Peanuts being a world revolving around such a melancholy character was very relatable to me as anyone who’s met me will attest to! I loved how dark it could be and still remain so mainstream.
The TV specials were treated so well by Bill Melendez that I would say there was a good deal of pressure on Blue Sky Studios to deliver a movie that respected the source material and could hold itself alongside both the strips and the specials (which are beloved in America I believe.)
Visually I think the movie was incredible. The artists responsible have obviously taken great care with translating Charles Shultz’s pen line onto the screen in some cases using 2D elements overlaying the 3D to achieve an interesting blend of styles. The limited animation is as perfect a style match to the characters and world of Peanuts as anything I could have hoped for and there is obvious craft and thought gone into keeping it limited by fully controlling every frame down to eliminating motion blur in favour of hand crafted smear frames.
The cinematography is well reserved maintaining many of the flat aspects of a comic strip. The only place it veers off into more dramatic camera work is in Snoopy’s Red Baron scenes which was a nice idea visually but story-wise dragged on a little too long.
In general I found the story to be decent enough although maybe a touch too sentimental. Perhaps the pacing of an American Blockbuster film narrative was the wrong choice for a Peanuts movie? I find it hard to be overly critical because they had a very hard job to do on this (what a cop-out review this is!)
I’ll watch it again and most likely buy it but perhaps things are better off in the medium they are conceived in. Being a film does not legitimise a piece of work. Peanuts will ALWAYS be great on it’s home turf – 4 panels, every day.