FILM REVIEW: ‘The Peanuts Movie’ is near-perfect all-ages fun

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Filled with wit, wisdom and heart to spare, The Peanuts Movie is a faithful and fun adaptation of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved comic strip that all ages will enjoy.

We begin in winter, but this is not the Christmas-themed story you have seen air on your local broadcast affiliate every holiday season a hundred times over. This is the story of Charlie Brown, everyone’s favorite underdog, and his search for the confidence needed to speak to a beautiful red-haired girl who just moved to town. His dog, Snoopy, assists him in his journey with encouragement and dance lessons, often offering both at the same time. Snoopy has a story of his own as well involving his ongoing fight for control of the skies against the World War II pilot known as the Red Baron, and somewhere along the line he too finds time for love.

Never in my nearly 30 years of life have I seen a film adaptation as clearly fueled by love for its source material as The Peanuts Movie. Though Schulz himself passed some years ago, the film plays like a love letter to the universe he created and the lives he touched through art. There are hundreds of strips brought to life, most frame for frame, and their are numerous creative uses of Schulz’s original work throughout the narrative. All memories appear as comic strips, for example, and when characters talk on the phone the lines dividing the screen into panels appear as if they were drawn by Schulz himself. This clear dedication to keeping the original spirit of the series alive should warm the heart of any Peanuts fan, and the brightly colored world that plays host to the story should be more than eye-catching enough to pull in young audiences who may not be as familiar with the characters.

Speaking of the Peanuts gang, everyone is here, and they’re each given a moment to shine. You have Lucy and her psychiatric booth, Schroder and his piano, Pig Pen and his dust cloud, Peppermint Patty and Marcy, and—my personal favorite—Linus and his blanket. Sally is there as well, and of course she spends most of her time pining after Linus. Everything exists as Schulz said it should, and nothing is out of place.

While I love The Peanuts Movie and the way it brings me back to my childhood, I have to wonder if the story itself and its subtle flourishes will work with today’s young audiences. The Peanuts brand continues to be one of the most recognizable comic properties in the world, but a lot of their success is owed to older generations with long-term connections to the characters and mythology. Most kids today have probably never seen the Peanuts gang outside of their Christmas special, which has admittedly begun to look and feel its age, so I am curious if the decision to stick to the original themes and driving motivations behind Peanuts will pay off for those behind the film. It works for me, but again, I was a fan going in.

All debates related to whether or not the Peanuts gang will resonate with new audiences aside, The Peanuts Movie is an impressive animated accomplishment that services the needs of series fans from beginning to end. Anyone who has ever felt a connection to the creations of Charles M Schulz will be moved by this film, and I find it hard to believe anyone who actually knows the universe being adapted will find a single item out of place. Potential for financial success should always take a distant second place to good storytelling, and that is exactly what happens in this film. If it works on a large scale, great, but if not at least the producers of The Peanuts Movie have created something that will be celebrated by fans of Schulz for generations to come, and that is more than most movies can ever claim.