If you are of a certain age and recall anxiously waiting for that first airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas in December 1965, you could be a bit skeptical about anything new featuring your favorite lovable loser Charlie Brown. But have no fear, besides the CG, there is nothing revolutionary about The Peanuts Movie; in fact, it remains assiduously true to what creator Charles M. Schulz started with the Peanuts comic strip back in 1950.
Schullz’ son Craig and Craig’s son Bryan wrote the script, taking almost five years to get it just right. Director Steve Martino manages to capture the essence of the old cartoon series that we know and love, and though there is some new music thrown in, it is also a joy to hear the familiar sound of the Vince Guaraldi Trio as the kids frolic in the snow.
The story is at once familiar and yet slightly changed. Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp) gets a good deal of screen time, developing his character and letting us see he is not as much a loser as a kid who lacks confidence. Loyal dog Snoopy seems a bit more supportive here, and bird Woodstock stands by to lend a hand.
The plot is pretty simple – once again Charlie Brown finds himself hopelessly in love with The Little Red-Haired Girl (Frances Capaldi), and he goes about all sorts of plans to let her know how he feels; however, he is his own worst enemy for the most part, ruining his own chances again and again.
Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller) continues to be Charlie’s foil, sitting in her psychiatrist booth and dispensing bad advice for a nickel. I don’t know what’s more amazing after all these years – that Charlie is still getting advice from the girl who pulls the football out from under him again and again or that Lucy’s services still cost five cents.
This brings to mind the most important thing about The Peanuts Movie – it is not of this time but rather timeless, as are the characters and the story they tell. Throughout the movie I was waiting to see a cell phone or some of the other devices we now depend upon daily, but none made an appearance. To even further the sense of timelessness, there are rotary phones in the houses and Snoopy still writes his stories on a trusty old portable typewriter.
While some may think this reboot should have pushed Charlie Brown and company into the current decade, there is something infinitely more soothing about seeing kids being kids – ice skating in winter, playing outdoors in summer, and doing their homework the old fashioned way – with pen and paper.
Our friend Snoopy still has his fantasies as well about being an ace World War I pilot in relentless pursuit of The Red Baron. There are some fine scenes of their dogfights, and a subplot involves a French poodle named Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) whom Snoopy loves and tries to save from the dastardly Baron. It’s all in good fun and reminds us of why Snoopy remains a fan favorite after all these years.
My son’s familiarity with Peanuts began with the Christmas show, and then followed by watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and reading all the assorted books we have based on the strip. It was a pleasure to see him and all the other kids in the theater laughing and enjoying the characters that I grew up loving (and whom I still love).
All the gang is back and it’s a joy to see Linus (Alexander Garfin) and his blanket, Schroeder (Noah Johnston) playing his piano and rebuffing Lucy’s advances, Pigpen (A.J. Tecce) bringing his cloud of benign dust wherever he goes, and Marcie (Rebecca Bloom) for some inexplicable reason still attending to Peppermint Patty’s (Venus Schultheis) every need and calling her “Sir.”
At the heart of The Peanuts Movie is Charlie Brown, as has always been the case in the comic strip and the TV specials. Charlie seems to gradually become more assertive here, but he still cannot get up the courage to give The Little Red-Haired Girl a flower. Only a series of circumstances thrust Charlie into the spotlight where he gets to make a tough choice, but one that perhaps will get him finally noticed by the object of his affection.
Overall, The Peanuts Movie is a 93-minute dose of nostalgia for adults, and an entertaining and enjoyable experience for their children. I highly recommend this film for a great family day or night at the movies.
Photo credits: peanutsmovie.com, IMDb
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