Growing up on Charles Schulz’ Peanuts gang gave me somewhat high expectations for the new movie. Fans of the Peanuts have always loved the relatable characters and the warmth of the themes that resonate throughout each image.
It’s been 35 years since the last theatrical Peanuts film- Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back) hit theaters, and the first since Schultz’ death back in 2000. But written by Schultz’ son and grandson, it’s easy to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It keeps with the spirit of the original works while bringing a modern animation style. And thankfully, that’s about the only contemporary feature that this film has. They do a great job of not modernizing the content too much. It doesn’t succumb to fart jokes or modern frivolities. There are no cheap gimmicks to get laughter. It’s just a classy adaptation of the classy source material we grew up loving–even featuring echoes of Vince Guaraldi’s trademark compositions.
The Peanuts Movie revolves around everyone’s favorite underdog- Charlie Brown- and his quest to get the new girl to think of him as more than a klutz. He wants her to see him as cool and popular. There’s also a subplot that is shown interstitially throughout the film featuring Snoopy imagining that he’s flying his plane, trying to rescue his love, Fifi, from the Red Baron.
It’s a simple love story, but that’s what Peanuts does so well. They provide us with grandeur lessons through straightforward means. In this case Charlie Brown learns about confidence, being true to himself, and perseverance–lessons that can have just as much impact on the adults watching as it does on their children.
What the movie does best is provide so much depth to Charlie Brown’s character without straying away from the already established depth that we’ve known him to have throughout the years. It doesn’t try to reinvent the characters for a modern world–it appropriately fits this storyarc into the Peanuts canon without disrupting it.
All the major characters from the comic strips and TV specials are present: Linus, Lucy, Sally, Franklin, Pig-Pen, Schroeder, Peppermint Patty, et al. While some minor details are incorrect, such as Linus being the same age as Charlie Brown (he isn’t), and Peppermint Patty attending the same school as “Chuck” (she doesn’t) they’re really just minute cavils that most casual fans won’t even notice. But each character is given some sort of minor storyline or idiosyncrasy that is important to the overall plot.
The only time the film slows down is when the Snoopy storyline comes to a close and finishes with a somewhat lengthy finale. The subplot is actually a fun addition to the movie, since each segment only lasts about 45 seconds, but the climax of it all runs for about 4 minutes and slightly takes away from the momentum of the film. However, this is only a minor hiccup in an otherwise fantastic film.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
The Peanuts Movie truly has an old soul as far as films go–especially of the family variety. It proves, once again, the timelessness of Schultz’ beloved characters.