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Review: The Peanuts Movie 

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THE PEANUTS MOVIE

***

DIRECTED BY Steve Martino

STARS Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller

The world needed a CGI version of Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts as much as it needed yet another unwatchable Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. The world has received both, and while not even the savory promise of seeing Donald Trump fed coif-first to a shark could entice me to see the Alvin odyssey The Road Chip, The Peanuts Movie turns out to be a pleasant surprise – and a great relief.

The continuing adventures of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang haven’t been rendered in the soulless mode of computer graphic imagery that in the past has perverted such toon creations as Mickey Mouse and Spongebob Squarepants.

Instead, working from a script by Cornelius Uliano and (here’s the key) Schulz’s son and grandson, Craig Schulz and Bryan Schulz respectively, director Steve Martino and his team of animators have created the basic character outlines via slick CGI but have lovingly kept the crude facial features as simple and as expressive as those in Schulz’s comic strips and on the various TV specials.

The crispness of these visuals is matched by the smartness of the script, which includes all the relevant touchstones (the baseball mound, the Red Baron, the adults’ unintelligible gibberish, “It was a dark and stormy night”) while adding some delightful shout-outs to the franchise’s storied history.

As one example, the moving company Mendelson & Melendez is a nod to Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez, the creators of those beloved Peanuts TV specials.

Speaking of Melendez, he provided the “voices” (laughs, wails, etc.) of Snoopy and Woodstock for 40 years, and although he passed away in 2008, he’s the one heard in the movie, with Martino and co. graciously choosing to utilize his old recordings in the service of this new project. It’s a beautiful gesture, right in line with the general goodwill – and good grief – provided by this pleasant picture.

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