“THE PEANUTS MOVIE” — 3 stars — featuring the voices of Noah Schnapp, Anastasia Bredikhina, Alexander Garfin, Noah Johnston, Hadley Belle Miller, Mariel Sheets; rated G; in general release

The greatest success of “The Peanuts Movie” is that it captures the charm that made Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip and its TV specials so beloved to audiences. It has its missteps, but there are plenty of moments that recall favorite character quirks and highlights from past stories, and thankfully, “Peanuts” stops short of feeling like a greatest hits montage.

In short, longtime fans should be happy with the result, and new fans will find an easy time getting on board. “Peanuts” isn’t perfect, but it is a fun piece of animation.

The centerpiece of the story, as always, is Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp), that hapless kid in the funny yellow shirt. “Peanuts” showcases a wide variety of Charlie’s misadventures, but the film is built around a fan favorite: Charlie’s crush on the Little Red-Haired Girl (Franesca Capaldi).

The film opens as winter arrives, bringing the Little Red-Haired Girl to Charlie’s class. Charlie is smitten immediately, and when the girl of his dreams drops her pencil, most of the “Peanuts” plot becomes geared around Charlie getting up the nerve to give it back to her.

It’s a simple concept, but the movie packs plenty more into its 93-minute run time. Rather than talk to his crush directly, Charlie opts for a series of indirect ways to impress her. This leads to a series of anecdotal vignettes that involve everything from a school talent show to Charlie getting labeled a child genius after he mistakenly earns a perfect score on a standardized test. It does make “Peanuts” feel more like a series of sketches rather than a tight narrative, but it’s still a good ride.

Speaking of which, there’s also plenty of supporting content from Charlie’s loyal dog, Snoopy, who cuts in and out of the action with his sidekick, Woodstock, as they fight their eternal imaginary battle with World War I’s infamous Red Baron. And there are plenty of appearances from Lucy, Linus, Pig Pen and all the rest.

One of “Peanuts’ ” biggest challenges is presenting a product that can compete visually with the Pixars of the world while maintaining the simplicity of its roots. The solution is a 3-D, CGI rendering that combines 21st-century craft with classic 2-D style. The Red Baron sequences transition into more standard-issue CGI environments, but most of the “real-life” action preserves the cartoon’s original feel.

But while the visuals represent a nice compromise, the “Peanuts” soundtrack stumbles. The Vince Guaraldi soundtrack was one of the primary drivers of the classic “Peanuts” mood, and it has a presence in the new film. But director Steve Martino also includes sequences set to contemporary pop music, which dilute the tone of the film.

Luckily, that’s one of few attempts to bring Peanuts into the 21st century. Attentive audiences will be amused to find their favorite characters talking on landlines and pounding away on typewriters. They might just have to explain what’s going on to their kids.

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“Peanuts” may be kind of erratic as far as movies go, and it’s probably better suited to its previous, short-form incarnations. In the comics, and even in the TV specials, Charlie Brown can be frozen in time, a permanent metaphor for our own tumbles through adolescence and even adulthood. While a full-length film is plenty of fun, its feel-good third act forces Charlie’s story in ways that die-hard Peanuts purists might struggle with.

It’s hard to imagine anyone walking away from “Peanuts” in disappointment, though. Schulz would no doubt be thrilled to see how far his characters have come.

"The Peanuts Movie" is rated G; running time: 93 minutes.

Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on "The KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. Find him online at facebook.com/joshterryreviews.

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