The Peanuts Movie
Never complicated, but satisfying
A friend of mine went to see The Peanuts Movie at a matinee show and reported back to me that there was no one in the theater under the age of 30. Granted, there were only about 15 people present, but for the opening weekend of a major children’s release, that’s an interesting statistic. My nine-year-old daughter thought so too, especially since we went to a matinee on Veteran’s Day with a couple of hundred other families with the same idea. Kids ruled that theater. Why, my daughter wondered, were there no kids at the other showing?
Charles Schulz used a no-frills, baldheaded boy and a cast of eclectic characters to relay the message of being true to who you are.
Well, I said, I know you wanted to see this movie, but I suggested it. I wanted to come. In a time of an oversaturated market that includes Pixar, Disney Channel, and the Cartoon Network, the Peanuts brand means more to my generation than the current one. If your kids have watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, then chances are that it wasn’t their idea to watch these specials—at least the first time around.
For those of us who did grow up watching the Peanuts gang during the holidays, the new movie offers familiar fare. Just like the late Charles Schulz’s original specials, the movie is simple, mellow, and carries a simple message. It doesn’t offer anything different, but that’s not a bad thing. The last thing we need is a souped-up, modern Charlie Brown who plays Minecraft online with Linus and who shows Snoopy squirrel videos on YouTube.
The movie’s story line should be familiar to fans of the Peanuts comic strip and TV specials: unassuming Charlie Brown attempts to succeed at something, struggles and fails, but wins out in the end just by having good intentions and being himself. In the movie, Charlie attempts to succeed both socially and academically at school, and tries to get up the courage to talk to the newest student, the Little Red-Haired Girl.
The supporting cast stays true to original comic strip and TV specials as well: Linus offers moral support while holding his blanket, Lucy suggests questionable advice for a small fee, Peppermint Patty just wants to play hockey, and Woodstock drives a Zamboni and uses a tiny snow blower to clean up his bird bath. And—spoiler alert—after all of these years, we finally get a brief glimpse of what Pigpen looks like after he receives a brief shower. Of course, Snoopy is along for the ride as well. He’s always by his owner’s side, except when he’s off in his own fantasy world flying his doghouse and becoming a World War I flying ace, trying to defeat his enemy, the Red Baron.
I was actually never a huge fan of the Snoopy flying interludes, and those scenes do slow the movie down a bit. But again, if the goal was to stay true to the original, then the filmmakers succeeded. One of the main reasons that the movie doesn’t stray from its comfort zone is that its cowriters include Charles Schulz’s son Craig Schulz and grandson Bryan Schulz. That multi-generational collaboration will also appeal to different generations. My parents would like it, I liked it, and my kids liked it.
The Peanuts gang was never complicated. Charles Schulz used a no-frills, baldheaded boy and a cast of eclectic characters to relay the message of being true to who you are. Whether Charlie Brown was trying to prop up his sad Christmas tree, Linus and Sally were waiting for the Great Pumpkin, or Lucy was plotting the right moment to pull the football away from Charlie Brown, there was nothing in the story that was going to have you on the edge of your seat. The Charlie Brown TV specials never blew me away, but they didn’t have to. I just liked watching a normal, self-deprecating kid trying to succeed.
If Schulz’s comic never resonated with you, then the movie probably won’t either. If you grew up liking Peanuts, the movie will ring true. Simple, but true.
3 out of 4 stars. Rated G.