I should start by admitting that I was never really a Peanuts fan. I liked their holiday specials when I was a kid because they signaled Halloween and Christmas, but I was always confused by the kids and their relationships. Why did they all hate Charlie Brown so much, but still occasionally act like his friends? Lucy was the worst about this, giving Charlie Brown advice one minute (for a nickel, of course), then verbally abusing him in front of classmates the next. I never quite understood why Peppermint Patty was referred to as “Sir,” but I was MOST confused by Charlie Brown’s dog. Snoopy was portrayed as a hero on the Peanuts specials, but he was often the first to sabotage his owner. Man’s Best Friend was basically a turncoat! It’s no big surprise then, that my own CHILDREN never loved the Peanuts specials either and weren’t excited about seeing The Peanuts Movie.
This big screen version is essentially the same Peanuts that Charles Schulz brought to newspapers in the 1950’s, but with more dimensions (we saw it in 3D) and more emotional depth. Charlie Brown still can’t win at ANYTHING and his classmates still call him blockhead, but there’s a sweetness that wasn’t there before. We see Charlie Brown make sacrifices for his friends and family and watch Snoopy actually get his back for once. Another big change is “The Little Red Headed Girl,” who has been stricken from everyone’s memory and shows up at school for the very first time. This puts Charlie Brown on a path to change his luck and for once, it just might happen!
Not all of The Peanuts Movie has been updated, though. We revisit Snoopy’s dangerous dogfights with The Red Baron, which offers some of the movie’s most gorgeous animation. I appreciated it, since those were my favorite (albeit STRANGE) segments from the originals but my kids were COMPLETELY stumped. Why was Snoopy suddenly a WWI fighter pilot and HOW was he flying his doghouse around? There are multiple “throwback” moments like this that will entertain the adults and flummox the kids. There’s enough for grown-ups and kids alike though, to sustain a happy-medium for all.
I might not have liked the Peanuts specials when I was a kid but it’s been revamped enough to answer many of my complaints. Maybe I wasn’t the only one who was sick of watching Charlie Brown LOSE all the time. The Peanuts Movie manages to be at once nostalgic AND modern. I even got a little weepy when it ended and Charles Schulz’s name appeared on the screen, and that’s why I’m giving The Peanuts Movie a B.