Blu-ray Review: The Peanuts Movie

By , Contributor
Even in 2016, 16 years after the death of Charles Schulz, the Peanuts gang is still able to pack theaters. Whether or not the addition of computer-generated 3D animation was necessary, families around the world queued up for The Peanuts Movie. There's a certain comfort in knowing that a new generation of fans is discovering Schulz's ever-endearing characters. Still, it's hard not to wish a more traditional (i.e. low tech) animation style had been retained. And, even at a lean 88 minutes, director Steve Martino's film feels padded. It's as if the producers didn't quite trust the source material, no matter how enduring it has proved over the decades.

The Peanuts Movie is now available on Blu-ray, available as a gift set that includes a plush Snoopy toy, via 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. (Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and Digital HD formats available as well.) 

peanuts movie 2 (380x205).jpg Chief among the padding laced throughout The Peanuts Movie is the running thread of Snoopy as a WWI pilot versus the Red Baron. While it's of course sourced from original Schulz strips, it's utilized here as a way to showcase flashier animation. The general appearance of the characters and their surroundings is updated, yet still simple. That said, even when we're not zooming around with Snoopy and Woodstock in a biplane, there's still far more sparkle and shine around Charlie Brown's suburb than there ever was before. You might miss the decidedly drab neighborhoods and ball fields of the classic Peanuts animated specials. 
Peanuts movie 3 (380x205).jpg The meat of the story involves Charlie Brown's crush on the Little Red-Haired Girl (whose presence is tremendously boosted here in comparison to the vintage comic strips and TV specials). In a bid to impress her (and everyone around him), Charlie tackles War and Peace for his grade-school book report. He also manages to apparently ace a big test, but his victory is not quite what it seems. Perpetual blockhead Charlie gets a taste of the big-time hero treatment, but he faces some real ethical challenges in light of his new "celebrity." At moments, The Peanuts Movie taps into the pathos that have made the gang so lovably relatable. But the whole thing veers into generic feel-good territory a few too many times, missing the undercurrent of sad resignation that generally allowed the Peanuts to resonate so deeply.

Another issue is the music. While some of the late jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi's classic themes are sprinkled in, the orchestral score by Christophe Beck feels woefully un-Peanuts-like and out of place. Beck's rather generic music would probably sound fine in just about any other family film, but by dropping Guaraldi (not completely, but still!) the atmosphere changes. Adding insult to injury, the inclusion of Meghan Trainor tunes threatens to transform select sequences into music videos. 
peanuts BD plush toy (380x229).jpg Fox Home Entertainment's Blu-ray, equipped with a boldly colorful 1080p high definition transfer and lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1, features a number of extra features. The biggest deal is the 30-minute 'making of' featurette "You Never Grow Up, Charlie Brown." For aspiring comic strip artists, there are a couple of brief "How to Draw" featurettes, one focused on Snoopy and the other on Woodstock. For further promotion of Meghan Trainor and her dull soundtrack tune "Better When I'm Dancin'," we get a "lyric video" (i.e. karaoke-style thing), the music video, and even a "behind the scenes" featurette for the video. The extras selection is also fleshed out with a bunch of still galleries and a few other short videos, like the "Get Down with Snoopy and Woodstock" music video.

The Peanuts Movie will certainly put smiles on the faces of young viewers (and nostalgic older ones, probably, if they can accept the new look). While it doesn't dishonor the Peanuts legacy, it also doesn't add anything new to it. There are some funny sight gags and a few well-timed callbacks to past Peanuts specials. It may not be inspired, but overall it's a painless viewing experience.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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