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terça-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2015

Snoopy’s Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie review: 'beautiful, but empty'

This high-tech update of Charles M. Shultz’s Peanuts cartoons gets the hand-made look just right. But good grief, it's slight
To quote Dolly Parton: it costs a lot of money to look this cheap. Snoopy & Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is a $99 million 3D computer-animated movie that does everything it can, within its significant technological powers, to look like a hand-drawn cartoon made half a century ago for less than 0.1 percent of the price.
In 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas was produced for by Bill Melendez Productions for $96,000, and became a festive viewing staple for millions of families worldwide. That modest, 25-minute animation captured the quivery lines and melancholic tug of Charles M. Shultz’soriginal four-panel Peanuts strips with uncanny accuracy.
Either despite or because of the state-of-the-art technology with which it was made, this 2015 version from Blue Sky Studios, the makers of the Ice Age films, manages to get the look right with astonishing accuracy – although the mood, which provided the essential, bittersweet savour of Schulz’s work, remains wispily elusive.
From Pixar to The Polar Express, most CGI animations entail three-dimensional characters moving around intricately realised backdrops like actors on a set, so that the camera can rove around more or less as it would on a live-action movie. But to reproduce the distinctive flatness of the Peanuts world, Snoopy & Charlie Brown does things differently.
As they would be in a hand-drawn animation, the characters here only have the suggestion of 3D-ness – and they’re completely remodelled depending on whether they’re facing forward or to the side. Pencil lines ‘drawn’ directly on the frame denote emotions or movement: Woodstock, Snoopy’s little yellow bird friend, even flutters around followed by a dotted line.
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The grain and brushstrokes on painted wooden objects, like doors and fence-posts, is larger than life – as if the items have the mass and dimensions of a toy, but were built in the real world by full-sized human hands. Some other ‘props’, including snowballs and Snoopy’s typewriter, have a matte, plasticine-y finish, as if they’ve just been moulded off-camera. And the clouds look like cotton wool, fluffily uneven and soft to the touch.
Written down, this just sounds chaotic, like a four-way mash-up of South Park, The Clangers, Wallace & Gromit and a flip book. But in motion, it’s a thing of serious, faux-artisanal beauty –  and when paired with Vince Guaraldi’s unforgettable piano-jazz score, plus archive recordings of Melendez as the kazoo-squeak voice of Snoopy himself, everything feels visually and sonically right.
It’s only spiritually that Snoopy & Charlie Brown runs into trouble. The film was co-written by Schulz’s son and grandson, Craig and Bryan Schulz, along with Cornelius Uliano, and it revisits many of the popular gambits from the original strip: ice-skating, baseball practice, the Kite-Eating Tree, Lucy’s psychiatry booth, and the various social and academic pressures of the primary-school world blown up to psyche-engulfing proportions. (Charlie’s new-in-town sweetheart, the Little Red-Haired Girl – who was ingeniously never revealed in the strips, but was a semi-regular presence in the various cartoon spin-offs – is the source of most of these.)
To keep the pace up, these low-key scenes are interspersed with more fantastical episodes in which Snoopy takes flight on the roof of his kennel, and dogfights with his nemesis, The Red Baron, above thunderstruck French landscapes.
Film Review-The Peanuts Movie
Credit: Twentieth Century Fox & Peanuts Worldwide LLC
But while there’s nothing here to remotely trouble young minds, there’s nothing much to stick in them either. For the most part, the film just seems to waft along, and though Charlie Brown's life is low-key by nature, the stories are mostly flimsily low-impact.
The most fully realised thread involves Charlie spending the weekend ploughing through War and Peace for a book report – a weighty volume referred to in hushed tones in the school library as Leo’s Toyshop – and perhaps combined with the Red Baron stuff, and definitely without the horrendous saccharine pop track that occasionally surfaces throughout, this would have made a perfect, nostalgic 25-minute Christmas special.
In terms of its craftsmanship, Blue Sky’s film walks the walk. But the talk is a little too slight, and a little too slick, to really hit home.

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