Sunday, 10 January 2016

Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

On the 9th January, 2016, 3 generations of Mendozas saw The Peanuts Movie - based on the popular comic strips and cartoons by Charles M Schulz.

Dad had always been a huge fan of Snoopy as a child, and this had carried through into adulthood. To this day, we still have the odd Snoopy visible around the house from his extensive collection, and there's at least a few at my paternal Granny's house, too.

Through Dad's love of Snoopy/Peanuts as a child, his parents ended up loving it, and through my awareness of this, I took an interest too. I remember we had a video copy of Snoopy, "Flash Beagle" that I watched a lot as a kid, and at my grandparents house we had a copy of the film "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown." I also watched many of the other films and Christmas Specials over the years, with either Granny and Grandpa or Dad.

When we first heard that Blue Sky Studios were making a feature-length film, we were apprehensive, to say the least. Would it do the original series/films justice? Or would they go too far in trying to modernise it for a Hollywood audience? It could very easily be another Magic Roundabout - which, while I enjoy immensely as a good film in its own right, Dad is right that CGI animated film didn't retain nearly the same level of charm as the original series.

And then, we saw this trailer:

Suddenly, we were at ease. The opening moments, using the 2001: Space Odyssey music, lead you down one line of thinking, especially as the earth morphs into Charlie Brown's CGI head, but then....

That moment where that music stops, Snoopy appears, and the original Peanuts music begins, all worries are dispelled. As Dad said, it was as if those producing the film were quietly saying to the fans, "Don't worry - this is safe in our hands." Even in what is just a 60-second teaser, you can feel the charm and sense of humour that was so present in the original cartoons. Even the style of 3D animation was great - you weren't being given a full 360-degree view of the environment and characters, so it still had a two-dimensional feel to it.

Nevertheless, the use of pop music in some subsequent trailers had made me, at least, a bit more nervous - love pop music though I do, mainstream sounding pop music was never a staple of the Peanuts cartoons and it wouldn't have been great if the film was just filled with an entirely pop-based soundtrack.

So, while quietly confident that I wouldn't be disappointed, I sat down in the cinema with Mum, Dad, my younger brother George, and younger sister Ruby, to see the film. After a few too many trailers, and an Ice Age short featuring 'Scrat' which, while enjoyable, made me feel the Ice Age shark had most certainly been jumped, the film began.

The film was absolutely beautifully done. A true labour of love.

The music, the mood, the sense of humour, all of it felt so faithful to the original cartoon. (Warning: some slight spoilers ahead in the rest of the paragraph): There was no massive, overarching one-off storyline that took the characters to a different place, no grand, Hollywood-style adventure, it felt very much like a compiled mini-series of stories that would be right at home in the original cartoons (albeit with an overrarching narrative running through). Even scenes of Snoopy flying his kennel like a proper plane, seen in the original series but could never have been achieved on the same scale in hand-drawn animation, felt totally faithful to the humour, heart and mood of the cartoons.

Without saying exactly why, I wept at the end. It was the one thing that I felt deviated ever so slightly from lots of the tropes of the old comics and books, but it did so with such class, feeling and narrative reasoning that it felt completely right and justified.

While I'm not sure it would have nearly the same resonance for those who didn't watch Snoopy cartoons or read the Peanuts strips as a child, I do think the film is good enough in its own right to enjoy as a family whether you're familiar with the characters or not.

But if you are, then Snoopy and Charlie Brown will feel extra special. In many ways, it feels like a love letter to the fans, and all those that used to watch it, with lovely easter eggs scattered throughout, lots of laughs, and a good story.

Especially if you have ever enjoyed watching or reading Snoopy/Charlie Brown/Peanuts, go and see this film.

I think I can say, with reasonable certainty - it doesn't disappoint ;)

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