|'A winning marriage of Charles M. Schulz's simplistic comic strip characters and subtle but impressive CGI animation'.|
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is that it comes from Blue Sky Studios, the company currently running its once-charming Ice Age franchise into the ground with a fifth instalment set for release this summer. The studio has form in adapting much-loved Americana, however, with 2008's Horton Hears A Who! receiving praise from many for remaining true to the style and spirit of Dr. Seuss' original book.
The same can thankfully be said of The Peanuts Movie, presenting as it does a winning marriage of Charles M. Schulz's simplistic comic strip characters and subtle but impressive CGI animation. The screenplay by Craig and Bryan Schulz - the son and grandson respectively of the Peanuts creator - and Cornelius Uliano essentially presents a feature-length animated comic strip. It's an approach which at times leaves the film feeling somewhat lacking in depth, but works far better than one imagines imposing an artificial and unnecessary MacGuffin-fuelled adventure would have worked. Keeping the running time to under ninety minutes is also a wise move, ensuring Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) and friends provide enough entertainment without overstaying their welcome.
The characters are as endearing and precocious as ever, with Steve Martino deftly managing to make the world of Peanuts feel true to its mid-20th Century roots without ever feeling outdated. A reboot is never even hinted at, skilfully proving that not every franchise needs to be crowbarred into the modern day to feel fresh. The voice cast is well-chosen and humbly echoes the animated TV series and specials of the past. The inclusion of the familiar wah-wah trombone sounds used in place of any adult speech, as well as archival recordings of original voice artist Bill Melendez for Snoopy and Woodstock's unmistakeable vocalisations, will also strike a welcome nostalgic chord for the older members of the audience.
Artistically, Martino and his cinematographer Renato Falcão retain the charming purity of the original strip whilst also including some satisfying direct nods - the use of familiar black-and-white line drawings to illustrate Charlie Brown's thoughts and daydreams here and there is a wonderful, respectful touch. The one area where Martino and Falcão stretch their creativity further is in bringing to life Snoopy's imagined adventures as his alter ego, the World War One Flying Ace, and his rivalry with The Red Baron. The animation is sumptuous and the action sequences exhilarating whilst also remaining true to the aesthetics of the rest of the film, delivering a sub-plot which expands on its source material of which you imagine Charles Schulz would be proud.
Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is released in the UK on Digital HD on Friday 13th May, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 30th May 2016.