The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Synopsis: Hapless romantic blockhead Charlie Brown and crew are back on the big screen after a 35 year absence.
Would you be able to sit through it?: I’m a Peanuts and Snoopy fan so I was just as excited to see these characters in a new animated movie as much as my own kids. Brian loathes these characters and their melancholy lives, so he has zero interest in seeing this. However, I must say that this movie felt more or less like a reboot of the Peanuts strip, whereas it recycled a lot of the old tropes of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Brown meets and falls for the Little Red-Haired Girl, a storyline that has been around many many years and Snoopy is introduced to and fights the Red Baron as if this was the very first time. While this may have been great way to introduce and welcome Peanuts to a whole new generation of kids in the audience, I was a little bored with the same material. However the animation was fantastic and I even enjoyed the way they mixed old Schulz-style animation with the new.
Any scary/violent parts?: Snoopy and the Red Baron dogfight in early 20th century France, while Snoopy mimes machine gun fire. I don’t think you’ll need therapy to fix your kids after this sweet-natured flick.
Anything that will screw up your kid’s head?: None. However, if you really think about it, Schulz Peanuts kids are all really flawed and depressing characters. Maybe Brian’s attitude towards them is rubbing off on me but while watching this particular movie it struck me that these kids all have adult-like cynicism or a commonplace bad luck nature towards life. Lucy is probably the most mean-spirited girl in literary history. She’d put any of the “Heathers” to shame. Linus has his insecurities with his blanket, Pigpen is a slob, Marcie is a lowly sycophant and Charlie Brown is the most self-loathing sad sack of all time. It’s amazing that these kids are this much well-regarded and adored but that’s probably why. They reflect the worst in all of us and yet, they have fun and persevere through the trials and tribulations of life. But as a kid, I never saw these shortcomings of these characters but just had fun watching them and I’m 100% positive that these today’s youngsters will be just as fine watching them as well.
Any lessons to be learned?: Be a good person, do what’s right and moral and believe in yourself. Charlie Brown is smitten with the Little Red-Haired Girl and tries in vain to impress her and always fails in even getting her attention, yet by the ending his good-nature and his kindness wins.
Recommended age: 5. I took my 6.5-year-old and my 3.5-year-old and they both sat and enjoyed it. However, I’m sure a ton went over my 3-year-old’s head. But what’s great about this movie (and Peanuts in general) is the younger viewers will always have the silent Snoopy and Woodstock to fall back on and enjoy and the older viewers will relate to the kids’ struggles with school, sports, love and friendships.
3D?: I saw it in 2D and I only wanted to see it in 2D because, let’s face it, it’s an animated movie and 3D means very little to the viewing experience. Plus my kids hate wearing those annoying glasses.
Rent it, buy it or avoid it?: Burent. I’m a loyal Peanuts fan and will gladly purchase the home video version. However, like I said there were some slow parts and repeats with the stories told in a better animated version so maybe this movie might leave some casual viewers a little cold. I’ve read and heard mixed reviews and I can somewhat see why. There’s really no cohesive plot or storyline except for Brown attempting to get attention from the Little Red-Haired Girl. The film takes place for a whole school year and every scene is basically what will Charlie Brown attempt next to get that attention, like magic for the talent show, to learning to dance or doing a whole book report for her when she’s away for the week. He never speaks to her until the finale which is fine for a Peanuts movie—it’s told in a style akin to a series of comic strips—but there’s really no plot or character development for anyone. Snoopy has his story arc of him saving his girlfriend, Fifi, from the Red Baron that intertwines with Brown’s arc but if I were to write a synopsis for this it would literally be “Charlie Brown tries to get the attention of a new girl at school.” That’s essentially it.
I’d also like to point out that this film in no way try to pander to new fans or viewers at all. This film was essentially told just like the Schulz comics—it was as if it was set in the 1960s. Snoopy still uses a typewriter to write his Red Baron Story. The kids still use pencil and paper to write a book report and there are still old school metal garbage cans and cross-bar paper kites. No cell phones, iPads or even modern day sneakers! I very much respected that decision to not mess with what always worked and to maintain the legacy of these characters and their era. It was also the same great Vince Guaraldi jazz tunes. The only modern thing was the one upbeat dance song written for the movie performed by Meghan Trainor and if you know anything about Trainor, you’d realize that with her retro-Motown pop sound that she’s a perfect fit for Peanuts.
Score: 7 Joe Cools (out of 10)
My 6-year-old’s favorite part: When Charle Brown finally got to meet and talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl.
My 3-year-old’s favorite part: The Winter Dance scene.
Preceding Short: Blue Sky Studios (who produced The Peanuts Movie) was basically started with the dull, yet enduring Ice Age movies. The short before The Peanuts Movie was one featuring the saber-toothed squirrel Scrat who always gets in pickles trying to hide and defend his acorn. It was as dull and stupid yet harmless as the Ice Age movies. My kids didn’t care for it.