Big Screen Streaming: The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts Movie

-Film Reviewed by Roger Market

The Peanuts Movie commemorates the sixty-fifth anniversary of the classic Peanuts comic strip featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the gang. This is the first feature-length film in the franchise since 1980 and the first to be released after creator Charles M. Schulz died in 2000. With a screenplay written by Schulz’s son and grandson, Bryan and Craig Schulz, the film employs the 3-D computer animation style made popular by 1995’s beloved Toy Story. While the computerized animation may be a point of contention for some, fans can delight at the rejuvenation of these cherished characters in time for the holidays.

As always, de facto main character Charlie Brown is a shy, clumsy schoolboy who wants to succeed at everything he tries. Life, however, is spiteful. Charlie can’t fly a kite without getting it stuck in a tree. He can’t even strike someone out in a baseball game. As his failures mount in the first few minutes of the film, it becomes clear that Charlie Brown isn’t exceptional at anything except making a fool of himself. When the unnamed little red-haired girl moves in next door, Charlie Brown recognizes his chance to start a new friendship with a clean slate. This girl knows nothing of his failures, and as such, he hasn’t embarrassed himself in front of her yet. He could start out as a hero!

Charlie Brown’s clean slate doesn’t last long. Lacking confidence and refined skills, he endures one humiliation after another on his journey to impress the little red-haired girl. He’s encouraged by her beauty but also by their similarities—not the least of which is the fact that they both chew on their pencils. Charlie Brown turns to his trusty dog and friend Snoopy for help.

Whenever he’s not busy coaching Charlie Brown through life, Snoopy writes the next scene in his novel about his alter ego, an airplane pilot called the Flying Ace. When archrival and fellow pilot the Red Baron captures a beautiful dog named Fifi, the Flying Ace pursues him, making repeated attempts to save Fifi and put an end to the Red Baron’s tricks. Snoopy’s romantic and imaginative pursuit takes him from the top of his dog house to the far reaches of the world, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, but he always manages to come back down to earth and help his friend.

Of course, what Peanuts movie would be complete without Sally, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Lucy, Linus, Pig-Pen, and Schroeder? While these fan favorite characters do appear in the film, Sally and Lucy are the more prominent secondary characters, and the others are relegated to the background. In keeping with the franchise, Sally is an antagonist for Charlie Brown, repeatedly making fun of his failures, but she’s also a friend who provides him with psychiatric help at her roadside booth—for the low, low price of five cents. Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, means well but often proves herself a nuisance too. For example, when Charlie Brown finally has a chance to impress the little red-haired girl (and everyone else) with a magic act at the school talent show, he sees his sister making a fool of herself on stage. Sally’s props aren’t cooperating, as the “bull” (made of boxes and cloth) that she is trying to lasso falls apart. The audience laughs at her, and she’s on the verge of crying. Charlie decides to show his brotherly love by dressing up as the bull for Sally to lasso, thereby sacrificing his slot in the show. He’ll have to find another way to impress the little red-haired girl and prove himself a hero. Of course, he fails to realize at first that giving up his needs to help his sister makes him a hero by default. The Peanuts Movie is packed full of positive lessons for both young and old audience members.

Long-time fans of the Peanuts franchise may scoff at the modern animation style of The Peanuts Movie. Some may also be disappointed to know that The Peanuts Movie is essentially a reboot that recycles classic plots and gags from the comic strip, movies, and television specials. In other words, it’s not particularly original, and the sequences often feel more like disconnected shorts than a cohesive feature-length film. However, the new film’s themes and subject matter are in keeping with the Peanuts of yore, and the nostalgia factor alone may be a draw for many viewers. Good old Charlie Brown is still as compassionate, honest, brave, funny, and gullible as ever. Snoopy is still his lovable, imaginative dog. Diehard Peanuts fans who can accept a little change, will enjoy the film. Likewise, parents hoping to introduce their children to the family-friendly world of Peanuts will delight in the new animation and friendly characters. Who knows? This film may pave the way for a resurgence of the franchise with original—and likely more modern—plots to come.


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