The kids, a whole bunch of them piled into a Saturday afternoon matinée in the biggest and plushest of Regal Cinemas’ Syracuse theaters in Syracuse mall Shoppingtown, admired The Peanuts Movie enough to sit still and at attention through 119 minutes.
The adults, parents and grandparents and others who’ve grown up with the screen and cartoon strip world of Charlie Brown and friends through all or some of their six decades of still-life-in-America, appreciated the fair play up high and sweetness all around them.
These next generations of the Schulz family got it right when they signed this latest piece from the franchise that came way back when from the mind and pen from patriarch Charles merely “by Schulz.”
Charlie Brown, his dog Snoopy, nemesis Lucy and her little brother Linus Van Pelt, rough-hewn Peppermint Patty and her devoted buddy Marcy, Beethoven-loving piano prodigy Schroeder and the apple-of-Charlie’s eye, the Little Red-Haired Girl, have clearly moved into the 21st Century with the computer animation of these times.
The best comparison I could come up with to describe how the faces of the gang look on-screen in the 2D showing I attended is those squeezeable rubber dolls that might or might not make a sound when somebody who loves them tightens the hold.
I got used to is quickly enough. That’s because the Schulz guys got what they handed to director Steve Martino right. Charles’ son, Craig, produced, and got a co-writing credit along with his son, Bryan, and Cornelius Uliano.
All of it is deliciously Charlie, with bits and pieces from the TV specials and movies and strips of decades past woven together for a tale with warmth and lessons for all. The kids keep the traits that have made them America’s darlings. Charlie can’t fly a kite and is always doubting himself; Lucy’s a pill and loves her role as a thorn in Charlie’s side and moon over Schroeder; Linus wants to build his buddy’s confidence up.
There’s a bit of shuffling to make this mosaic work, such as putting Linus in the same class as his sis and Lucy despite their age difference, and Peppermint Patty and Marcy, too, even though in previous tales they’ve lived in a different neighborhood.
And to make this sweet story work, the Little Red-Haired Girl needs a face.
If anything, even as Snoopy battles the Red Baron once more — will he save damsel dog Frida? — The Peanuts Movie seems to be sweeter than past productions. In these times, that brought everybody to cheer together as the credits rolled, and more of that familiar Guaraldi music interspersed with modern sounds.
Are you a fan of the Charlie Brown universe, and if so, why? Who is you favorite Charlie Brown character, and why? What’s your favorite Charlie Brown story line, and why?