Peanuts are 3D on the big screen

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3 out of 4 stars

Everything changes, even what’s been untouched for 65 years.

That’s how long it has been since Peanuts first appeared in newspapers’ comic sections, introducing us to Charlie Brown and beginning America’s love affair with a boy who could never kick a football or win a baseball game.

Decades came and went, but Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus, Schroeder and perhaps the most famous animated canine of all time, Snoopy, remained forever in their neighborhood, playing in the geometrical confines of the nearly 18,000 strips that ran from 1950-2000 before living on forever in reprints.

But like seemingly every cartoon – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-head, Garfield, The Smurfs and Alvin in the Chipmunks – it was only a matter of time before Hollywood dusted of the franchise and put it on the big screen.

Charlie Bfown and Snoopy are back in The Peanuts Movie. (Fox)
Charlie Brown and Snoopy are back in The Peanuts Movie. (Fox)

Depending on your age, Peanuts is a comic strip or a bunch of cartoon kids who appear on holiday specials. So it’s probably no coincidence The Peanuts Movie hits theaters today, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the franchise’s holiday staple: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

But this movie isn’t your brother’s, father’s or even your grandfather’s Peanuts. Charlie Brown and his crew are larger than life, transformed into computer-animated, 3D kids without losing their identities. Charlie Brown is still follicly-challenged and lacks confidence. Schroeder still plays a mean piano, Linus still won’t give up his blanket, Lucy still picks on Charlie, Pig-Pen still stinks and Snoopy and Woodstock still don’t think the rules apply to them.

Peanuts – even at its height when it was ran in over 2,600 newspapers in 75 countries and in 21 languages – has always been more amusing than funny, which describes The Peanuts Movie perfectly, just as late creator Charles M. Schulz would have wanted.

Snoopy falls in love in The Peanuts Movie. (Fox)
Snoopy falls in love in The Peanuts Movie. (Fox)

With Shulz’s son, Craig, and grandson Bryan serving as screenwriters and producers, The Peanuts Movie was going to stay true to its roots. Collaborator Paul Feig, who was behind the hit comedy Bridesmaids in 2011, provides humor while director Steve Martino uses the same magic touch to bring Peanuts into the 21st century as he did with the Dr. Seuss classic Horton Hears  A Who! in 2008.

Martino, Craig and Bryan’s biggest success was turning a Peanuts comic strip that took seconds to read or a TV special that was filled with commercials into a 93-minute film that engages today’s kids, as well as the parents who grew up reading Peanuts in the Sunday paper.

The Peanuts Movie is powered by two story lines, both involving love. Charlie Brown – finally! – develops a full-blown crush on the newest arrival to the neighborhood, a red-headed girl named Frieda. Meanwhile, Snoopy becomes smitten with a pretty pooch named Fifi (voiced by Kristin Chenoweth), who loves flying as much as he does.

Save for the brighter colors and 3D imaging, Peanuts remains true to its core. It’s not like the latest Muppets or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies where characters have been updated for today’s world. Charlie Brown doesn’t have a cellphone, Peppermint Patty doesn’t text, Marcie still reads hardcovers, and well, Franklin is still the only minority, as Peanuts wasn’t going to change for the sake of the times – or a rebirth.

“This is just a one-movie deal,” Craig Schulz told reporters. “We didn’t want to get caught up in making films just to earn money. It’s not a franchise by any means. My goal was to make one good Peanuts movie.”

And that’s exactly what he did.