It can’t be easy being a parent. Oh, forget late night tantrums and the lack of a social life – I’m talking about how there’s simply nothing you can take a young child (three plus of course – any younger shouldn’t set foot inside a multiplex) to see at the cinema without tearing your hair out. The choice is between blockbusters warped by the 12A/PG-13 rating to be far too adult, baby animations that even a thirty-six month old would find childish and mainstream family films geared to hock products to impressionable audiences that offer up nothing for anyone over the age of seven (shout out to Minions with its constant an nefarious subliminal marketing). So thank Schulz for The Peanuts Movie. It’s a nice, amiable film that will play wonderfully with younger kids while also stopping their parents (or any other adult animation fans) from nodding off.
There is, of course, a big nostalgia factor, which helps. Even if A Charlie Brown Christmas (something the film seems to be explicitly cashing in on with its winter-time setting) isn’t essential festive viewing for you (it certainly isn’t for me), you must still be aware of Charles M. Schulz’s creations – delightful children characters who embody different psychological types, teaching universal lessons about friendship. And the film does them proud, with each key kid getting enough screentime to showcase their individual tic; a reunion for long-standing fans and suitable introduction for newcomers. The animation too, is very pretty. Not going for the realistic-cartoon style we’ve come to expect from modern animation, this is very much Schulz’s drawings transplanted to the third dimension (they even think in his minimalistic cartoon style) and is certainly a cut above what we usually get from Blue Sky Animation (Ice Age, Rio). There’s a real scope to it too, with a cool, if narratively odd (dare I say padding) dream sequence of Snoopy chasing down a Nazi pilot providing an action backdrop to the various Charlie Brown-chasing-a-girl escapade.
Still, for all you may get out of the film and all it offers up, little is going to stick with you long after viewing. The problem really is that it’s too nice. I’m not going to complain that The Peanuts Movie is lacking edge, because we don’t want a gritty, modern Snoopy who’s a pair of sunglasses away from Poochie, but the episodic story merely ambles along, not concerned with anything more than getting to B from A and telling the exact story you’d expect from these characters (the moral message is nothing more than what you get from the twelve panel comics of Charlie Brown missing that football). There’s unmistakable care – bordering on love – for the material on show here, but, like Charlie Brown, Blue Sky just can’t quite get the kite to fly.