The Peanuts Movie

November 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Voices of Noah Schnapp, Hadley Belle Miller, Bill Melendez
Directed by: Steve Martino (“Horton Hears a Who”)
Written by: Brian Schulz (debut), Craig Schulz (debut), Cornelius Uliano (debut)

Good grief, they got it right.

A little personal history: with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang being such an integral part my childhood – from comic strip anthologies to the indispensable holiday season animated specials – a sense of dread permeated my soul when a 3D computer-animated feature from the studio behind “Ice Age” was announced. How many pop songs and dog farts would we be forced to endure? Would the sweet stillness of something as seminal as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” be thrown out the window in favor of a voice-modulated Justin Bieber cast as Charlie Brown opposite a Snoopy whose internal monologues were voiced by Ed Helms with the personality of “The Simpsons’” Poochie? Would I finally turn into one of those people who laments some media from my childhood – all of which still exists, mind you – being repackaged into something atrocious and devoid of what made is special in the first place? Refreshingly, the answers to those question are a couple, none, no, no, and not yet. Somehow, in an era when even Transformers have testicles, “The Peanuts Movie” manages to feel cut from the same creative cloth as the source material while still being given a modern facelift to make sure kids don’t fall asleep, Peppermint Patty-style, in their theater seats.

Wisely opening on a frozen pond to evoke the spirit of the classic holiday special, the movie introduces us to Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp…an actual child!) trying to win one of his eternal battles: flying a kite. When it all goes wrong, as it often does in Charlie Brown’s world, he draws the loud mouthed ire of Lucy (voice Hadley Belle Miller, yes, a child!) and the gentle sympathy of her brother Linus (voice of Alexander Garfin, yep, a child actor). Everyone’s favorite blockhead receives a glimmer of hope, however, when The Little Red-Haired Girl moves in across the street, and Charlie Brown is instantly smitten. The eternally self-doubting Charlie Brown will need all the courage he can muster to talk to her, so he enlists the help of his trusty beagle Snoopy (voiced, as he should forever be, by the archival squawks of the late Bill Melendez), who also lives out a fantasy life as a World War I flying ace eternally clashing with the infamous Red Baron.

A 3D kids’ movie arriving in 2015 with Charles Schulz’s vision intact is a minor miracle, a debt no doubt owed to the ubiquity of Peanuts merchandising and the widespread popular love of the still highly-watched holiday specials – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas – that have become staples for generations of families. Sure, not a lot happens in the movie and at times it can feel like the script is ticking off greatest hits – the Great Pumpkin, Joe Cool, and “no dogs allowed!” all pop up in the first half hour – but the sweetness of the screenplay and the hopelessness conveyed in the Schulz-ian squiggles of Charlie Brown’s facial expressions evoke everything that has made Peanuts a cultural touchstone for 65 years.

Horton Hears a Who

March 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: (voices of) Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett
Directed by: Jimmy Hayward (debut) and Steve Martino (debut)
Written by: Ken Daurio (“The Santa Clause 2”) and Cinco Paul (“Bubble Boy”)

When it comes to tapping into a child’s imagination, no one does it better – and with more creativity – than the late Dr. Seuss. Know for classics like “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat,” both of which disappointingly did not translate well to the big screen, Dr. Seuss’ books are bound to be adapted for years to come. (Not sure how you would write a screenplay for One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, but weirder things have happened in Hollywood).

So is the case for the 1954 Seuss story “Horton Hears a Who!” In the new CGI-animated film, Horton (Carrey), an elephant who lives in the jungle of Nool, is excited when he discovers that an entire world known as Whoville exists on a speck that is floating through the air. Worried that something will happen to the inhabitants of the speck, known as the Whos, Horton catches the tiny particle and places it on a clover (some type of Seuss- conceived flower) until he can figure out how to help his hidden friends.

One of the residents of Whoville is the Mayor (Carell), who realizes that his town is a lot more microscopic than he could have ever imagined. Although the Mayor cannot see Horton (they’re just too small to see something that big), he can hear him from time to time. Plus, with bizarre things happening in Whoville like spontaneous sunsets (Horton going into the shade) and tremors (Horton falling to the ground), the Mayor knows there is more to his existence that his (literally) small town.

Amusing for much of its runtime (like Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch,” the little Seussian character named Katie steals the show), “Horton Hears a Who!” offers up great voice work by Carrey, Carell, and others and keeps the pop culture references at a acceptable level. Kids might not get the “Apocalypse Now” allusion (although they might get the MySpace one, which is scary), but at least there are a few gems parents can look forward to as their little ones oo and aah over the colorful characters and fresh approach to all things wacky.