Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts
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November 04, 2015 at 04:30 PM EST

Co-written by a son and grandson of Charlie Brown’s beloved creator, Charles M. Schulz (who died in 2000), the first feature-length version of Peanuts in decades is a patchwork quilt sewn with nostalgia for the little insecure blockheaded boy and his gang. But while TV reruns of Schulz’s old-school specials still pull big numbers every holiday season, the film disappointingly ditches the cartoonist’s modest visual formula for a photorealistic 3-D playground courtesy of the animation studio behind Ice Age. Even if you assume that Schulz always wanted his frozen pond reflecting lustrous light and Snoopy frolicking in a lavish Hayao Miyazaki world, the animation steroids injected into the aesthetic here nonetheless shrivel the great melancholy that’s so key to the comic’s endurance. And also its underdog humor—South Park, which shares DNA with Peanuts, would feel equally false in high gloss. It’s a shame to see Charlie Brown, one of our culture’s most lovable nonconformists, swing for the big leagues and whiff. C+

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