Dedicated to Mrs. A, who introduced me to Charlie Brown and the whole gang in 4th grade.
Like many kids, I grew up reading the Peanuts comic strips and watched the specials. So when I heard about how Blue Sky studios was making a 3D animated Peanuts movie, I was reluctant to see it until I saw the trailer and heard good things about it.
This review will be spoiler-free because I want everyone to give this movie a chance.
The best word I can use to describe The Peanuts Movie is “timeless.” Movies that are marketed to kids usually try to grab attention by pandering with pop culture references and using modern slang. This was easily seen in the trailers I saw. There were some laughs, but nothing in particular made me want to see any of the movies advertised.
In contrast, The Peanuts Movie begins with the kids waking up and finding out that it’s a snow day. As soon as the alarm clocks started ringing, I felt laughter bubbling up inside of me as I watched Peppermint Patty smash her alarm clock with a hockey stick while Schroeder woke up to Beethoven’s Fifth and just sat in his bed enjoying the music. The only “modern” thing in movie was Meghan Trainor’s song that played a few times throughout the movie. Kudos to the animators and the writers because it wasn’t until I saw Charlie Brown tangled up in phone cords that I realized “Omigosh they’re using landlines!”
The whole movie is a slice of life with lots of nods to the specials that everyone grew up with. You hear the “Skating” theme when the kids go out ice skating on the snow day. There’s a sequence where you get to see everyone do those familiar dance moves from the Christmas Special and Linus hoping that the new neighbor will be open to believing in the Great Pumpkin. The best shout out to the comics, though, came in the subplot of Snoopy creating his novel and his daydreams of chasing down the Red Baron. Snoopy is my favorite character so I loved how the sequences with the Red Baron finally came to life in this movie.
The main story, however, centers on Charlie Brown and his numerous attempts to impress the Little Redhaired Girl. I know some people are up in arms that we actually get to see her face in this movie, but the movie does a great job at not letting anyone actually see her close up until the very end. I also have to give credit to Charlie Brown for actually reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, understanding the complex themes, and being able to write an essay on it in the span of one weekend. Most grad students would slog through that book in maybe a month or two. I tried reading it in high school and I wasn’t able to get through it. Unfortunately, all of Charlie Brown’s efforts end up falling short for one reason or another, to the point that you think the world is out to make his life as miserable as possible.
What Charlie Brown learns, however, is that in order to succeed, you don’t have to do great things, you just have to be good. He makes an effort and always tries to do the right thing even when the odds are against him. I personally think that Charlie Brown’s determination is what inspired Snoopy to stop acting like a bratty dog and actually help his master out. But Snoopy wouldn’t be Snoopy without some digs at Charlie Brown, but thankfully that happens at the beginning of the movie, before Charlie sets out to try and get the girl.
It was a lot of fun seeing all the other characters, too. The speed of the animation made for great comedic timing. It comes off like stop-motion animation and it’s done really well. Plus, whenever the characters have a thought bubble moment, their thoughts are shown in the original comic strip style, which I felt was a nice nod to the source material.
Some might argue that Charlie Brown and especially Snoopy had a bit too much screentime, but given that this is the first feature length Peanuts movie, I’m okay with the most recognizable characters being the focus of the movie. If all goes well, there will probably be sequels that focus more on Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, etc. Another critique I hear is that Charlie Brown actually got a happy ending when in the original comics, he would’ve ended up losing the girl but being okay with it. Honestly, though, there are times that Charlie Brown succeeds in getting what he wants, but it’s never how he planned it. The ending felt realistic to me, compared to say the Valentine’s Day special when Charlie Brown gets a kiss from the little redhaired girl and dances the night away only to end up not remembering any of it.
Kudos, btw, to Christophe Beck for contributing to the movie’s score. As a Buffy fan, I know Christophe Beck’s music all too well and it was nice that he was a part of what made each scene so memorable.
Seriously, people, go see this movie. And make sure to stick around for the credits, too. There’s one particular joke I realized wasn’t in the movie and I was about to think “huh, I can’t believe they forgot that joke” but then, in the mid-credits, there it was. The one joke no Peanuts fan ever gets tired of.
It never gets old. And this movie won’t either. Go see it!