If the idea of a computer-animated, 3-D version of the “Peanuts” gang has you sighing “good grief” to your five-cent therapist, fear not. While plenty of other childhood treasures have been atrociously adapted for the big screen, “The Peanuts Movie” is a sweet little gift for fans of the long-running comic strip.
Based on a script written in part by the son and grandson of “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz, “The Peanuts Movie” is delightfully faithful to the earnest spirit of the original characters and their beloved holiday television specials. Director Steve Martino (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”) focuses on several themes familiar from those works: youthful angst, love, embarrassment and imagination, all of which will tug on the heartstrings of nostalgic adults while introducing even the youngest moviegoers to the world of Charlie Brown and his pals.
Charlie (voiced by Noah Schnapp) has fallen in love with the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi), who has moved in across the street. Trying his hardest to impress her, he learns magic tricks and dance moves; he even reads “War and Peace.” But he’s repeatedly foiled before he can find the courage to talk to her.
Snoopy — whose vocalizations use archival recordings by the late Bill Melendez — is also in love, but with the dog of his daydreams. As the imaginary “Flying Ace” battling the Red Baron from the roof of his doghouse, Snoopy comes across a beautiful French poodle, Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth). Although these canine reveries tend to go on too long, the brightly colored World War I flight scenes take good advantage of the film’s 3-D animation.
Director Martino has captured the emotions that made “Peanuts” so meaningful, masterfully replicating Schulz’s hand-drawn expressions, including Charlie’s sighs, Sally’s smiles and the exasperated yells of Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller). The filmmakers also stay true to the timelessness of Schulz’s world. The only tweets come from Woodstock, and Linus (Alexander Garfin) grips his blanket instead of an iPhone. Schroeder (Noah Johnston) still plays Beethoven on his toy piano, and Lucy charges only five cents for advice.
Parents’ hearts will melt every time Sally (Mariel Sheets) lovingly calls Charlie “Big Brother,” and when Charlie — feeling dejected at his prospects — laments that he has no future with the Little Red-Haired Girl because “she’s something, and I’m nothing.” An entertaining combination of humor and tenderness, “The Peanuts Movie” isn’t just an all-ages crowd-pleaser. It’s the perfect first feature film for a preschooler.
Chen is a freelance writer.
G. At area theaters. Contains nothing objectionable, except for unlicensed dispensing of psychiatric advice by Lucy. 88 minutes.