Wow, am I glad that the filmmakers didn’t mess this one up. Unlike the Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks, Hollywood didn’t feel the need to transform the classic characters of the Peanuts movie into edgy characters with attitude (except for a brief appearance of Snoopy as Joe Cool).
The Peanuts movie is CGI (computer generated), but though the animation is enhanced (beautifully so, I might add), this is the Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and Sally we parents grew up with.
The years haven’t changed Charlie Brown. He’s the downtrodden underdog, a self-described “insecure, wishy-washy failure.” Our hearts go out to him–who can’t relate to his feelings of inferiority on some level? — and like always we root for him. As accident prone and often clueless as he his, he’s lovable, and he always does the right thing. Is it his fault that things always seem to go wrong for him, especially when it comes to impressing the new kid in school who has just moved across the street: the Little Red-Haired Girl?
The movie doesn’t mind at all playing on our nostalgia for the original animated specials: the nods to the Peanuts TV specials are nicely and naturally integrated at key moments. Examples: Snoopy spoofing the kids singing the carol “Christmas Time is Here,” the adults’ voices heard only as “womp womp” trombone whimpers; the classic kids dancing, alone yet together, with heads bopping while bodies remain stationary at the school dance, and more. Cue the warm and fuzzy feel-good memories on behalf of parents.
The plot meanders a bit, exploring Charlie Brown’s efforts to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl throughout the school year. Yet this too is true to form, as most of the Peanuts TV specials were more episodic, comic-strip style with punchlines at the end of scenes, than plot driven. Snoopy’s aerial adventures with his nemesis the Red Baron form a pretty significant subplot (Snoopy pens a novel and the scenes are portrayed via his imagination). This part will be a little confusing to little kids who haven’t seen the originals, but I remember feeling lost too as a child when it came to Snoopy’s alter ego fighting the Red Baron during World War I. Yet, this is such an important part of the specials that the filmmakers couldn’t leave it out.
One really interesting choice I observed: this movie is free of contemporary technology. Charlie Brown uses a rotary phone (love this!), and Snoopy uses a typewriter to record his Red Baron novel. I think the filmmakers chose to do this to give it a timeless quality, while also grounding it in the 1970s TV specials. I somehow think Charles Schulz would have loved this old-school quality.
This movie is for all ages, G-rated in the truest sense of the word. Enjoy taking your family to the movies!