Luckless Charlie Brown has never won a baseball game, never gotten his kite in the air, never kicked a field goal, yet he never gives up, remaining honest and humble.
When it is discovered that he scored 100 per cent on the standardized test at school, Charlie Brown becomes a bit of a celebrity. He uses the opportunity to get the attention of the new girl in class.
In the fertile imagination of Charlie’s dog Snoopy, he and his bird friend Woodstock chase down the Red Baron, the First World One flying ace who has kidnapped Fifi, the new dog in the neighbourhood.
We say, “Charles Schulz would approve.”
TAYLOR: I was worried about this one. Schulz himself was one to keep the Peanuts gang true to form, his form. I’m pleased that The Peanuts Movie honours what Schulz gave us, to every detail.
It looks different because it’s animated using modern technology and technique, but everything else felt very familiar to me. The character’s personalities haven’t changed: Lucy is self-absorbed, Patty is a tomboy, Sally is smitten with Linus, Pigpen is filthy, their teacher has a muted trumpet for a voice.
The story also hasn’t changed, except that they’ve thrown two monkey wrenches into the universe to stretch the story out. One is Charlie’s test results making him popular and the other is the new little girl with red hair. The B-story of Snoopy trying to save Fifi is there to provide some slapstick and action.
As importantly I think, at least in terms of any would-be Schulz approval, the wholesome nature of this universe remains intact.
HOWE: I can’t deny that I wasn’t looking forward to this. Growing up in England, Charlie Brown and the gang just weren’t that big or interesting, especially when you had either the Thundercats or He-Man Master of the Universe up against it.
During the first five minutes of The Peanuts Movie I began to wonder “how long ‘till this is over?” Then something just clicked; it started to suck me in. There were some subtle moments dotted throughout that made me smile and laugh on more than one occasion. It also made me feel for Charlie, something that doesn’t even happen in a regular movie, so I congratulate the writers/artists for being able to pull that off.
TAYLOR: Nobody saw much of Charlie over the years, just the seasonal TV specials, but it has always been for young kids.
I saw a checklist of things I associate with Peanuts: jazz music, crazy dancing, playing outside, school, unfulfilled desires, strange adult-like tendencies to analyze these unfulfilled desires. Just how old are these kids who all have crushes on each other? Linus still sucks his thumb and carries around a blanket.
At any rate, thematically The Peanuts Movie covers all the bases and teaches us that doing well means being a good person, despite any perceived successes or failures. Charlie Brown is a bald loser in elementary school who won’t give up trying to do the right thing. How can I?
HOWE: None of us should.
– Howe gives The Peanuts Movie 4 dogfights out of 5.
– Taylor gives it 5 childhood nicknames out of 5.
Brian Taylor and Peter Howe review the latest films for The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.