Steve Martino (Ice Age: Continental Drift) directs Snoopy and Charlie Brown’s first feature film in 35 years with state of the art animation from Blue Sky Studios, and a whole new voice cast. During winter Charlie Brown becomes infatuated with a little red haired girl after she moves into the neighbourhood and joins his school. Determined to put his bad luck behind him Charlie strives to impress her in any way he can, whilst also trying to get through the trials and tribulations of school. In a side plot to the Charlie Brown’s quest, Snoopy divulges himself in writing a story with a typewriter about the Flying Ace, his World War 1 alter ego. The Flying Ace is trying to save his love Fifi from the Red Baron through a series of air battles, which Snoopy regularly acts out in his imagination throughout the film.
As far as paying respect to the legacy of Charlie Brown goes, this latest feature film hits the nail on the head almost perfectly. From characters present, story to the musical score, every step of the way remains faithful to the Schulz creations. The big players of the gang are all present, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Sally, Violet Gray, Pig-Pen and Marcie, and they all have some time on-screen, even if they are just fleeting moments. The musical score from Christophe Beck faithfully recreates some of Vince Guaraldi’s small jazz pieces and enhances them to make them more theatrical but they still fit the story and film perfectly, and for those Charlie Brown fans out there should be at home listening to it. Admittedly the addition of random pop songs here and there felt more jarring than they should have, probably because they feature alongside a completely different genre of music. The animation though is world class. Blue Sky have incredibly recreated classic characters with modern technology and made them look amazing. To make such basic character models look detailed without adding extra features and give them depth is nothing short of brilliant.
The story of the film and it’s Snoopy side quest have two faces. The first is that as per the other facets of the film, it remains a faithful tribute to the roots of Charlie Brown, whose biggest obstacle to overcome is usually his own misfortune. The second face is that it’s really basic, and a bit boring. I’m fully aware this is a film aimed at children and it doesn’t require a diverse plot but we are in the 21st Century and generations of children have grown up on animated films with bigger stories and more colourful characters. Snoopy’s fantastical imagination and side story provide much needed action and excitement with some well played sequences of aircraft battles, which the film would be a so much duller without. If the reaction of the children in the auditorium I watched it in are anything to go by, then they likely share my sentiment.
Really it’s not films fault for lack of effort, but a by product of existing in this era of modern animated film and trying to recreate something that was incredibly popular decades ago. It will sure stand out as a significant alternative to the worlds of talking animals, superheroes and Pixar films, and I sincerely hope it finds a place amongst them. But it doesn’t help the story they opted to go for is something you’ve seen countless times before on TV, a shy character trying to impress a girl, whilst making bumbling mistakes… This is usually covered successfully in 30 minute episodes of kids programmes.
For those looking for something action packed for the kids to see this Christmas then this is not the film to choose. However if your a fan of Charlie Brown and the gangs escapades, or wish to feel a little nostalgic then I couldn’t recommend this film enough. The animation is crisp, and the voice acting incredible for such a young cast, but the highlight for me was the short attached to the start of the feature, Cosmic Scrat-Tastrophe which leads into the next Ice Age film.