Director Steve Martino and the makers at Blue Sky, aware of the potential for aesthetic barbarism in transferring a beloved comic strip (and hand-drawn animated television property) to CGI, have exercised great care and sensitivity in bringing Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang to the big screen. Many of the old exchanges and punchlines have been preserved completely intact. Creator Charles Schulz’s scribbled facial expressions endure on the newly rounded heads, and the essential sweetness and humanity are still in place, despite the slings and arrows of outrageous childhood fortune. (Hello, kite-eating tree.) But those slings and arrows? Blunted, just like the suffering they so famously cause our hero. And without suffering, Peanuts becomes little more than wholesome distraction for kiddies. Which is pretty clearly the goal here — viz. the primary-color obviousness of lines like, “Charlie Brown is not a quitter,” “That was a very brave thing you did, Charlie Brown,” and “It must feel pretty great being Charlie Brown right about now.” Viz. also the thin story, the Looney Tunes–style visual gags, and the heavy reliance on Snoopy the dog’s heroic flights of fancy. Sigh. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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