Movie Review: “The Peanuts Movie” – It’s A Great Movie, Charlie Brown!

Written by Matt Butler November 19, 2015

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Okay, so for the longest time now, I’ve had a particular distaste for the term ‘kids movies’. To me, this means films that lack depth and insight, and pander rather than educate. “Well I didn’t get much out of it, but I’m sure kids would enjoy it.” *groan* No! Just because kids are immature doesn’t mean they deserve immature entertainment. They need films with substance, films they can appreciate even more when they’re older. To clarify:

Family movies: Films that can be enjoyed by the whole family (ie. Inside Out, Frozen, Song of the Sea, The Lego Movie, The Iron Giant, Big Hero 6, Kung Fu Panda, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania).

Kids movies: Films that can only be enjoyed by children (ie. The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, Cars, Cars 2, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, Hotel Transylvania 2, Home on the Range).

So yeah, when it comes to family/kids movies, I can be very cynical and opinionated, what else is new? But after seeing The Peanuts Movie, I realized I needed a change of perspective.

The Peanuts Movie reunites us with the classically incompetent block-head, Charlie Brown, as he struggles to reestablish himself as a winner in order to impress the new girl. Aiding him in his plight is his faithful yet mischievous dog Snoopy, who has a romantic pursuit of his own that turns into a high-flying adventure.

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So, right off the bat, the look of this movie is incredible. I’m a huge sucker for detailed animation, so to see Charlie Brown’s single curl of hair made up of several thin strands really makes me faithful in Blue Sky’s artistry. Considering how iconic the Peanuts characters are, it’s reassuring to see the characters’ designs unchanged, only more detailed. More impressive though, is the way the characters move. Now, unlike the cartoons of Disney and Warner Brothers, the Peanuts cartoons were never technical masterpieces. They were simple and minimalist, not because they had to be, but because they were focusing on something else, a calm and mature sensibility. Because of this, the Peanuts crew’s movements are distinctly subtle. It would have been easy for the film to overlook this in favour of fluid motion, but thankfully it holds to the low frame rate in keen nostalgia.

“It’s not often you get to start over with a clean slate, this time things will be different.”

This fond attitude is prevalent throughout the film, with the whole Peanuts gang present and back to their classic antics (Snoopy terrorizing Lucy, Schroeder noodling on his baby piano, Linus clinging to his blanket, etc.). But a film can’t live on nostalgic callbacks alone. Thankfully, it’s our hapless hero, Charlie Brown, that ties everything together. Many will recognize Chuck by his bald head, singular squiggle of hair, and of course, his yellow and black striped shirt. On a deeper level though, I think we recognize him by his struggle for adequacy. His goal to approach the mysterious Red-Haired Girl is so simple, yet his overthinking and anxiety constantly befuddle him. Regardless, he stays persistent, always bouncing back from failure to failure, but never sinking into bitter cynicism. Now, that’s a character you can’t help but sympathize with, and I’ll admit it, it got me teary-eyed.

“Charlie Brown is not a quitter”

So, with all this in consideration, would I call The Peanuts Movie a ‘family film’ rather than a ‘kids film’? No. This is a kids film, but not the pandering, hyper-active kind I’ve grown so cynical of. While The Peanuts Movie caters to the adults with its nostalgia, its agenda is unmistakably in service of a basic moral: greatness is nothing without goodness. It’s a moral adults are all too familiar with, but one that children absolutely need, and the way The Peanuts Movie cherishingly handles it shows the lesson, and Peanuts, are still relevant. I do wish however that the film devoted a bit more time to expanding on this moral, and a bit less to Snoopy’s fanciful aerial adventures (which despite being true to the cartoons, contribute very little to the compulsion of the story).

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I got a lot out of this movie, but I’m certain children will get even more from it. The Peanuts Movie is sensible, beautiful, knows exactly what it’s doing and exactly who it’s aimed for. It gives you just what you’d expect in the best way. What else can you ask for?

My Rating: 8/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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