Heading into watching The Peanuts Movie, I was extremely nervous to what I was going to see. So far Alvina and the Chipmunks and The Smurfs had been so riddled with modern commercialism that they were a complete parody of what they once were when I parked myself in front of the television every morning as a child with my big bowl of cereal. The stakes are much bigger with the iconic Charles Schulz created property, as Charlie Brown and his faithful pal Snoopy and the rest of the gang are sweetly sacred characters to a lot of the older audience.
I’m very happy to say that the end result is a film I believe Schulz would be happy with, rather than turning in his grave like a rotisserie chicken. More like an expanded big screen homage to everything we love about the Peanuts characters, the film really succeeds as being a sweet and very contained animated film, rather than put the hapless Charlie Brown and his crew on a giant overblown adventure.
In the fifth full length Peanuts feature and the first in thirty five years, the film focuses on everyone’s favorite blockhead as he falls for the new red headed girl in school. This puts Charlie Brown into a spiral of self doubt, as he believes he’s neither cool enough, smart enough or pretty enough on the eyes for this new girl, cleverly not focused on, that has stolen his heart.
Receiving help from his dog Snoopy and sidekick Woodstock, Charlie learns through folly the pitfalls of love, how to dance and more to win just the slightest bit of attention from his new hopeful love interest. With the usual negative interjections of his harshest critic Lucy and the hopeful prodding from his best friend Linus, this sweet story has charm and nostalgia with some pretty clever sight gags along the way.
If I were to pull an issue from this film it wouldn’t be anything about the film itself but the overblown need to put everything in 3D. It seems completely ridiculous for The Peanuts Movie to be in this format. It adds nothing to the film itself as there’s no obvious push of the technology and it’s an obvious cash grab for the studio to jack up the price, as is the case most times you see the words “in RealD”. It’s just another example of over bloating what the general public pays for films.
That aside, it’s really hard to hate the movie at all because it feels as simple as the other Charles Schulz stories. We get references to all the tropes we love from the original works and get a Snoopy versus the Red Baron subplot that adds a little something new with an imagined damsel in distress for our hero fighter pilot to save. It’d be pretty heartless to outright hate this film, although it’d be understandable if you failed to connect with it. Maybe Charlie Brown and Snoopy aren’t your bag.
In a year that seemed to be a little barren of really good animated family films of substance, The Peanuts Movie is at least a movie that you can share with the kids as well as take some childish glee out of it for yourself. Sure, it won’t be a conversation starter like Inside Out was earlier this year but it has everything you expect from it without having anything brutally modern shoehorned in to make it relevant for a new generation. This is probably what I appreciated most about the film, it’s old fashioned sensibility. I give The Peanuts Movie a four out of five.