Any child who didn’t grow up with A Charlie Brown Christmas (buy it from Amazon.com) as part of their childhood is missing out on something special. Charles Schultz created the Peanuts kids back in 1950 and after a few years, he had perfected each of their characters. Over the years, changes have been made, especially with Snoopy, who went from a dialogue-less dog to one that can write, put on disguises, and go on imaginary journeys. However, one thing that didn’t change was Charlie Brown, the loveable loser, and that remained true with The Peanuts Movie.
It was Charlie Brown that Charlies Schultz seemed to connect both with, a nervous little kid with no self-confidence, which made him easy for other kids to bully and make fun of. Charlie Brown also never won, although he did have some sweet endings, such as at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, when the other kids realized that Charlie Brown was trying to do the right thing and all banded together to help give him a joyous Christmas.
In that manner, The Peanuts Movie is a film that surprisingly retained the spirit of the beloved Charles Schultz comic strip. What makes this movie so special is that it also was created to almost resemble the comic strips that it was based on.
To explain what I mean, remember the strips where Charlie Brown would visit Lucy’s psychiatrist stand? Imagine that story running for three strips in a row and having a punchline at the end. That is how this movie is set up, a variety of comic strips, with almost identical dialogue that one would expect from classic Peanuts strips. They even maintain the language and references that remain extremely dated and might go over the head of younger kids who don’t get the references.
The Peanuts movie is a huge success and reminds me of the return of Winnie the Pooh a few years back. It maintained the spirit of the classic comics, while updating it for a new generation when it comes to the animation style. For people who feared it was moving too far away from what people love about Peanuts thanks to the trailers and the Snoopy fighting the Red Baron scenes, don’t worry. That is a side story that is just Snoopy’s imagination, and that plays out brilliantly at one point in the movie when Snoopy’s imagination flips back and forth between his daydreams and what he is really doing from the eyes of the Peanuts kids.
The main storyline is a familiar one, with Charlie Brown pining for the new kid in class, The Little Red Haired Girl. Unlike the comic strips, that only showed her from behind, or just showed her hair, The Peanuts Movie actually showed her and allowed her to speak. While that might rub some people the wrong way, when reading it, watching it play out shows that it works well and gives this movie a perfect ending, one that matches the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The ending, which I won’t spoil, stays true to the spirit of Charlie Brown but it gives him the happiest ending that Charlie Brown could ever have, while still proving that he is a blockhead who never really wins.
The Snoopy stories are his daydreams of fighting the Red Baron and started when a Linus show-and-tale Red Baron plane went out of control and flew off into the sky. What made this part of the story work was that it paralleled Charlie Brown trying to figure out how to talk to the Little Red Haired Girl, as Snoopy was trying to rescue a female dog that the Red Baron captured.
Add in a lot of the strips special moments, like the psychiatrist’s booth, Sally’s crush on Linus, Lucy’s crush on Schroeder, and more, as well as some nice funny moments that started with Schroeder playing the opening 20th Century Fox song and ending with a mid-credit sequence that brings back one of the comic strips’ most iconic moments, this movie is full of stuff that will make fans of Peanuts extremely satisfied.
Honestly, there is just one complaint about the movie. It is 93 minutes long, but feels much longer. It is only 1.5 hours long, so it really can’t cut much, but there is something wrong here when it feels like it is dragging at times. Maybe mix up the action a little better to pump up those slow moments, but I would hate to mess up something that feels so good. I have to recommend The Peanuts Movie to anyone who loved Charlie Brown as a kid, and for anyone who wants to introduce your kids to one of the best comic strip characters ever made.