The Peanuts Movie Voices of Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Alexander Garfin. Directed by Steve Martino. Rated G. Opens Friday.
Given the crass, commercialized way that classic animated characters like the Smurfs and the Chipmunks have been adapted for recent feature films, fans of the late Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters were probably wise to worry about the new big-screen version. But aside from its use of computer animation, The Peanuts Movie is extraordinarily faithful both to Schulz’s comic strips and to the many animated specials that still air regularly on TV (it helps that Schulz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan serve as producers and co-writers).
It’s so faithful that it’s a bit like watching the Peanuts greatest hits. All of the major characters (Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, etc.) and most of the minor ones are present, and the animation style is designed to mimic Schulz’s drawings and the classic specials. The central plot is about hapless kid Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) trying to win the affections of the mysterious Little Red-Haired Girl, but it makes room for plenty of diversions that incorporate almost every well-known Peanuts moment, from the “wah-wah” sounds of adults speaking, to Lucy calling Charlie Brown a “blockhead,” to Snoopy fantasizing about battling his fighter-pilot nemesis the Red Baron.
Those fantasy sequences serve mostly to pad out the running time, and the biggest problem with The Peanuts Movie is that it doesn’t have enough material to justify its feature length. Longtime fans will appreciate the reverence and attention to detail, and kids should enjoy the story’s simple charms, although they might get a bit fidgety before it all wraps up.