Movie Review: ‘THE PEANUTS MOVIE’ – A Sweet, Nostalgic Tale For Kids and Adults

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

THE PEANUTS MOVIE | 93 min | G
Director: Steve Martino
Cast: Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez and Hadley Belle Miller

I think anybody in their youth spent their holidays watching Peanuts specials. Personally, that’s the only way that I remember Charlie Brown & Co. because the comic strips never really appealed to me. Not that I didn’t ever read them; I just didn’t really understand how comic strips worked, so the appeal came in seeing the illustrations. When I got older and could understand the humor of the Sunday funnies, I latched onto something like Wizard of Id or Ziggy.

That being said, I could always relate to Charlie Brown. Not that I had a daydreaming dog or anything, rather he was this pudgy kid who was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Even though he had this feeling that something was bound to go wrong, whether by personality-driven detriment or sheer dumb luck, he remained optimistic. It’s this spirit that embodies THE PEANUTS MOVIE, where I felt like I was getting reacquainted with some old childhood buddies.

The film’s narrative starts on familiar ground as once again focused on Charlie Brown being the foible of his friends trying to have fun, that blockhead. Lucy is there to make sure Charlie Brown knows his inadequacy; Linus is still his best (human) friend; Sally is being the pesky little sister, Snoopy is there to have his back, and so on. But an opportunity arises for our hero when a new student, aptly named Little Red-Haired Girl, shows up in class. Charlie Brown immediately has a crush, and a chance to show her that he’s not this hapless loser that most of the kids perceive him to be.

Meanwhile, a subplot happens when our old friend Snoopy, along with his confidant Woodstock, tries to kill that oldest of foes: boredom. He tries to go to school but the kids won’t let him, so he uses a trusty old typewriter to put his imagination to good use. A story appears as Snoopy’s persona of the Flying Ace takes on the faceless Red Baron to save his new love, Fifi. All of this is of course meant to mirror the internal struggle Charlie Brown faces as he works up the courage to talk to LRHG.

All of the old marks get hit as THE PEANUTS MOVIE knows what it wants to accomplish from two angles: To make everyone that grew up on Peanuts have a 90-minute nostalgia trip, and to introduce the younger generation to an earnest side of childhood. Snoopy shows up in all of his forms, including a small Joe Cool cameo. Lucy shows up as a psychiatrist to give advice; Schroeder and his piano, Linus and his blanket. And while the LRHG is a new student, she’s actually a character that has appeared in previous cartoon specials; instead of a continuation of Charlie Brown getting the nerve to approach her, we get a revised course where we get an outcome.

THE PEANUTS MOVIE had me smiling the whole time as we went on this sort-of journey with Charlie Brown. The only real qualms I had with the movie is that it didn’t really do much to help transition parts of the narrative. For example, one minute it’s winter and the next it’s spring. Also, seeing the movie in 3D isn’t much; it doesn’t add anything to the narrative or experience. However, these minor setbacks didn’t ruin the overall viewing experience at all. I keep coming back to the word “earnest”, and how this earnestness is the key to popularity and charm of Peanuts as a franchise. No one strays from themselves and they still co-exist without any argument.

Charlie Brown’s purpose is to be the epitome of growing up in some sort of confusion. We know we need to “keep on keepin’ on”, but is there ever really an answer that the pursuit makes us better? THE PEANUTS MOVIE helps us realize that it’s never really about getting an answer, but about being true and earnest in order to receive an outcome and learn from it. To stop trying is the failure, and this is what is most successful about the movie. Charlie Brown IS a good man, and being good is itself a conflict. For a franchise that’s trying to break into the digital age, THE PEANUTS MOVIE is off to a great start.

THE PEANUTS MOVIE opens today.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.