Like any American, I’ve grown up with Charlie Brown and the Peanuts since I was practically born. I grew up reading the comic strips in the paper. I watched the specials on TV. I even visited Cedar Point a couple times, you know, the home of Snoopy. And the musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, was one of the first Broadway musicals I loved. However, it actually wasn’t really until I was around thirteen that my love for the Peanuts solidified. I constantly read the strips and even read biographies on the characters and Schultz himself. I went back and read the earliest strips, when Charlie Brown was cherubic, and his squad comprised of Violet, Patty, and Shermy. In high school, I wrote a class speech on the Peanuts. I was so cool.
As much as I loved the Peanuts, I have to admit, I’ve always preferred the strips to the animated specials. I think it was mostly because I myself liked to act out all the characters myself. The comic book format made it easy to do that. It’s probably why I’m at peace with the fact that there will never be a Calvin and Hobbes movie. The movie will never be as great as the strips. But…I could also say that Citizen Kane isn’t as great as All About Eve. This latest Peanuts movie will never overshadow my love for the strips…yet The Peanuts Movie is still wonderful. It has met with my high expectations. And, as of right now, I’m trying to decide whether I like it more than Pixar’s Inside Out.
I think the most pleasing thing about the movie is the animation. Look, I miss 2-D as much as the next 90’s kid. But 2-D movies (at least in the United States) don’t do all that well. Excellent movies like The Princess and the Frog, Winnie the Pooh and Curious George stuck to traditional animation, and suffered at the box office as a result. So, if Blue Sky wanted to draw its main audience to the theatres (children), the movie needed to be “3-D.” However, if you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll notice how faithful the animation is to Schultz’s original drawings. Despite the CGI, there is an old-fashioned, nostalgic feeling in the animation. There are moments of “crudeness” that is reminiscent of the early TV specials. Unlike the movie’s contemporaries, this animation is far from slick. As a 20-something, I never felt disconnected from the film. In fact, I would go as far as to say, even without the threat of box office numbers, the animators made the right move using CGI here. It felt new. It felt fresh. But I don’t believe the little things that made the “originals” so precious are lost.
I also really liked the script. Similar to the recent Ramona Quimby movie (starring Joey King and Selena Gomez), Schultz’s descendants do a great job of incorporating different little stories and vignettes from the original strips, while wrapping them all in a real narrative with a very satisfying conclusion. Charlie Brown is a painfully relatable character. But this movie allows him to leave the audience with a real victory (if you don’t count the credits). I don’t want to give away the story, but I was smiling and tearing like an idiot during the final scene. I also have to give a shout out to the kid cast (thankfully, the entire cast, save for Kristen Chenoweth who makes a cameo as Snoopy’s love interest, which is appropriate since her breakout role was for her Tony winning performance in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown). Noah Schnapp (who also has a small role in Bridge of Spies) does a very nice as the movie’s titular character. The entire kid cast is wonderful. But I think Alexander Garfin (Linus) and Dog with a Blog‘s Francesca Capaldi (as Frieda and Little Red Haired Girl) stand out.
So…is this movie better than Inside Out? Inside Out is certainly cleverer, more inventive, and bolder. But Peanuts simply warms my heart. It’s that “brain vs. heart” debate. What I do know is that The Peanuts Movie NEEDS an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. I haven’t seen every animated film this year, but I’m sure this movie is better than Hotel Transylvania 2 and Home. According to GoldDerby, Peanuts has moved to the number 5 position. Assuming there are 5 films nominated this year, the 2 Pixar movies are locks. The stop motion critical favorite Shaun of the Sheep will definitely get in. And the Charlie Kaufman adult drama Anomalisa is also getting a lot of buzz. The Prophet, The Boy and the World, and even the billion dollar grossing Minions are all strong contenders. And some obscure foreign 2-D movie also usually gets a spot here. So…there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space for Peanuts to sneak in. But I will root for this movie like I did for the last Winnie the Pooh movie. That worked out, right?
At least we have The Annies.
When you watch this movie, you won’t see any cell phones or tablets. You won’t hear any modern cultural references. And besides little snippets of a Meghan Trainor song, there will be very little indication that this movie is even set in this century. Like the original strips, even as time moves on, the Peanuts stay timeless. Sometimes, we need this in children’s entertainment. Definitely a bright spot for 2015.