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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Peanuts, Review: Dog and underdog

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Peanuts, Review: Dog and underdog

Undeniably, there is a large section of American comic-strip fans who are nuts about peanuts. There is a small section of Indians who feel the same, and have followed the exploits and ‘profound’ philosophy of good ol’ Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy, for decades.

Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts, first appeared in newspapers in 1950. Recently, there have been Bill Melendez-directed animated projects featuring Charlie Brown, called A Charlie Brown Christmas and You’re in Love, Charlie Brown. Interestingly, Mendelez is one of the voices on this project.

It was time for a full-fledged Peanuts movie, so here it comes. Made in CGI animation and screened in 3D, it has a modest length of 93 minutes.

Charlie Brown, arguably the world’s most beloved underdog and confirmed loser, embarks upon an epic and heroic quest to win over the heart of the Little Red-Haired Girl, the newcomer to his class, while his best pal, the lovable beagle Snoopy, takes to the skies, atop his flying kennel, to pursue his arch-nemesis, an imaginary enemy called the Red Baron, a World War I German pilot, and to rescue the love of his life, the sexy French poodle, Fifi.

Inspiration for this CGI version, technically created by the Ice Age animation team, came when Director Steve Martino was standing in the Charles Schulz Museum, at the desk where Schulz drew his strips. He watched a video of Schulz draw his characters, and recalled the days when he actually studied Schulz, as a young animator.

Charles Schulz, who died in 2000, was one of the most influential cartoonists in history, with more than 18,000 comic strips to his name. His son, Craig Schulz, has reinvented the Peanuts characters for a new generation of kids who may only be familiar with the holiday specials on TV. Craig co-wrote the screenplay for The Peanuts Movie with his own son, Bryan, and the two co-produced it too.

Martino created the computer-animated characters for the movie. Even though he used latest technology, he wanted to stay true to Charles Schulz’s original drawings. In his words, “I love to draw, I love to tell stories, and I got to do it in a big movie like this. My hope was to bring these characters to life in a bigger way than we’ve ever seen, but be truthful to who they’ve always been.”

It’s breezy, and almost breathless. The cutting and voice-overs are so sharp, that, at times, the proceedings become incomprehensible. Voice level variations, a must in animated films, leave much to be desired. No adult is ever shown, and neither is the villain, the Red Baron, which works fine, in the context. Gags, by and large, have good punch lines. Some, however, end in flat frames. The Little Red-Haired girl is shown with her back to the camera for a large part of the film, but when we do get a front shot, there is nothing to justify the ploy. Cute and innocuously funny, the film really did not need 3D to make its point. The film’s narrative will make good sense to the fan-club, not so much sense to the uninitiated. Too many characters, with no back-story or present day footage to characterise them, is another flaw. Watching Snoopy dig out an old manual typewriter from a garbage can and them create stories with its keys, under the critical eyes of Woodstock (the bird), is guilty fun, making you relive the time when you were in your pre-teens. Particularly imaginative, and ludicrously punny, is the segment on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and equally joyous is Snoopy’s attempt to join the grammar school class, undaunted by the fact that dogs are ‘not allowed’.

Animation is fine, and if most of the characters look like inflated 3D balloons, that fact does not really detract from their inherent appeal. In an age where success is mandatory, and self-help books by the thousands keep telling every individual how to make money, attain fame and sell yourself and your products to anybody and everybody, and how pathetic a moron you are if you can’t, Peanuts makes a very valid case for the honest, bumbling and wise, against the manipulative, suave and shrewd. “Loser”, “Accursed”, “Bad omen”… if you have been the target of such sadistic abuse by ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’, here’s hope, at least in escapist form. Martino and his animation studio, Blue Sky (The Ica Age guys), have made a nice, feel-good movie in comic-strip, episodic style, that could have been better. It is watchable, nevertheless. Animation Oscar material? Not really. Sequel stuff? Most certainly.

Rating: ***

Trailer: http://peanuts.s3.foxfilm.com/peanuts/videos/fox-peanuts-official-trailer-2-hi.mp

Voices

CHARLIE BROWN Noah Schnapp

SNOOPY/WOODSTOCK Bill Melendez

LUCY VAN PELT Hadley Belle Miller

SALLY BROWN Mariel Sheets

PATTY Anastasia Bredikhina

SCHROEDER Noah Johnston

MARCIE Rebecca Bloom

FRANKLIN ARMSTRONG Mar Mar

SHERMY William Wunsch

LITTLE RED HAIRED GIRL Francesca Capaldi

PEPPERMINT PATTY Venus Schultheis

VIOLET GRAY Madisyn Shipman

PIGPEN A.J. Tecce

LINUS Alexander Garfin

The characters, for those (losers?) who do not know the gang

CHARLIE BROWN

“Good ol’ Charlie Brown” is the lovable loser in the zig-zag T-shirt—the kid who never gives up (even though he almost never wins). He manages the world’s worst baseball team…yet shows up for every game. He can’t muster the courage to talk to the Little Red-Haired girl…yet keeps hoping. Even though he gets grief from his friends, his kite-eating tree, even his own dog, Charlie Brown remains the stalwart ‘hero’.

SNOOPY

The world’s most beloved beagle is a wildly imaginative, supremely confident, master of disguise. A legend in his own mind, he sets off to write the great American novel, a tale that will see him become The Flying Ace, win the heart of Fifi, the Wing-Walking beauty, and face-off against his ultimate foe, The Red Baron! No matter where his imagination takes him, Snoopy always returns home to Charlie Brown.

SCHROEDER

This mini musical genius is rarely separated from his toy piano or his idol, Beethoven—except when he’s calling a game as the reliable catcher on Charlie Brown’s baseball team. The rest of his time is spent fending off unwanted advances from the bane of his existence: Lucy.

LUCY

Known around the neighborhood (and by her little brother, Linus) for being crabby and bossy, Lucy can often be found dispensing advice from her 5-cent psychiatrist’s booth, yanking away Linus’ security blanket, or humiliating Charlie Brown. Lucy’s only weakness is her unrequited love for the piano-playing Schroeder.

MARCIE

Peppermint Patty’s best friend, loyal follower, and complete opposite, Marcie is the smart one of the duo—even if she doesn’t know the difference between baseball and hockey. She’s horrible at sports, but terrific at friendship, especially with Charlie Brown (whom she calls “Charles”) and Peppermint Patty (whom she calls “sir”).

PEPPERMINT PATTY

A fearless born leader and a natural athlete, Peppermint Patty is up to any challenge…except studying. She never met a school day she didn’t hate. For Peppermint Patty, sports are easy; it’s life that’s hard.

FRANKLIN

Charlie Brown’s good friend and confidant, Franklin is the only one who never has an unkind word about our hapless hero, or anyone else for that matter. Observant and reasonable, Franklin serves as the master of ceremonies at all school events.

WOODSTOCK

The fluttering, sometimes sputtering, little yellow bird is Snoopy’s sidekick, whether it’s as faithful mechanic to the Flying Ace and leader of the Beagle Scouts, or loyal secretary to the Head Beagle. Chirping in a language only Snoopy understands, Woodstock and his feathered friends are never far from Snoopy’s doghouse.

LINUS

The benevolent, blanket-clutching philosopher always has a kind word for everybody…even his bossy older sister, Lucy. He’s often the voice of reason in the neighborhood. If Charlie Brown is the heart of the Peanuts universe, then Linus is its soul.

SALLY

Charlie Brown’s little sister believes the world owes her an answer for some of its most perplexing problems: Why does she have to go to school? Why doesn’t Linus, her Sweet Babboo, love her? Sally’s mood can change at the drop of a hat. She can be her brother’s biggest fan, then turn around and wish they weren’t related.

PIGPEN

Happily traveling in his own private dust storm, Pigpen is completely comfortable in his own (dust-streaked) skin. Despite his outward appearance, he always carries himself with dignity and confidence.

LITTLE RED-HAIRED GIRL

Charlie Brown doesn’t know what hit him when The Little Red Haired Girl moves into town. If only he could muster the courage to speak to her!

FIFI

Fifi is a stylish, graceful, athletic and spunky French poodle that becomes the object of Snoopy’s affections during his wildly imaginative adventures.

SHERMY

Shermy is an all around good guy. Strait-laced and dependable, he’s friends with all the kids in the Peanuts gang. Little known fact -- he also cuts a mean “zombie” dance.

PATTY

Often seen with her best friend Violet, Patty is the sweeter of the two “popular girls” and follows Violet’s lead. With her signature plaid dress and matching bow, it’s a surprise when she shares her special interest in of all kids -- Pigpen!

VIOLET

Violet is smart, popular and, honestly, a bit arrogant. She makes her opinions known to everyone, especially Charlie Brown. She loves gossiping with her best friend Patty and tearing it up on the dance floor! But don’t be fooled by her seemingly elitist nature, deep down she’s still a girl who enjoys making mud pies.

FRIEDA

Never forgetting to remind every one of her “naturally curly hair,” Frieda is a kind girl who is always a good friend to Charlie Brown, no matter what he does.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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