With production studios pumping out films with bigger and bigger budgets, it sometimes feels as if movies, in a very broad sense, have lost some of their classic heart. Even animated films aimed at children and families have a very grand and big-budget film and, while the stories they tell might be created to feel heartwarming, sometimes the just feel like they are missing sometime. The Peanuts Movie, however, keeps their story really simple and, at its core, maintains a heartwarming and very charming feel throughout the entire film. I had no real intention of seeing this film… quite honestly I never really bought into the Peanuts franchise when I was a kid. But you don’t need to be a fan of this franchise to enjoy the movie. The movie stays away from big-budget or crazy meta-type stories, like Inside Out, that tells the story of a girl name Riley and the internal and emotional changes she goes through when faced with moving to a new town. On the surface, that premise is simple… but the way Pixar told it was extremely complex as the story was told from the perspective of Riley’s emotions that control “Riley-Prime”.
No, The Peanuts Movie, keeps it simple. They tell a story that young ones and adults and relate to. It is the story of Charlie Brown’s first love, and the battle he has to go through not only to win her affection but also the battle to overcome his own insecurities about himself. Deep down Charlie Brown doesn’t believe in himself, he doesn’t believe he is worthy of loving or being loved by his new neighbor, The Little Red-Haired Girl. But Charlie attempts to overcome his own shortcomings and begins to attempt to change himself, to improve himself, so that he may be worthy. I think it’s a story about overcoming your insecurities and accepting who you are even if you don’t feel like you’re good enough for others. Many people can relate to such a story as I think the majority of people have felt this way at least once in their lives. This movie is extremely heartwarming and charming and was a big surprise. It has jumped up to one of my favorite animated films this year.
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Life always seems complicated for good ol’ Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), the boy who always tries his best against seemingly impossible odds. When the Little Red-Haired Girl moves into his neighborhood, Charlie Brown develops a crush on her. Meanwhile, his best friend Snoopy embarks on an epic adventure in a fantasy world. As a World War I flying ace, the lovable beagle pursues his nemesis, the Red Baron, while also trying to win the heart of a beautiful poodle named Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth).
You know what I really loved about this movie? Seriously? You’re probably going to hate my answer because…well… it isn’t quantifiable…. I just feel like this movie had a lot of heart. It is full of laughs and charming moments and, while the animation isn’t as breathtaking as some of the bigger budget animated movies out there (anything for Disney or Pixar….), it has a simplicity that you’re not going to find in those other films either. Charlie Brown’s struggle is a struggle we have all had to face or may have to face some day in our lives… the vehicle for that struggle begins when a new girl moves into town and he instantly develops a crush. Now obviously, we might not all go through our first crush or love with the same anxiety that Charlie Brown has in the film… but even if you haven’t, I bet you can at least think of a time where your felt inadequate or undeserving of someone or something. Maybe it was a job you desperately wanted but felt unqualified for… maybe it was when your parents told you to give up on your dreams and settle for a more pragmatic role in life… this story is highly accessible to the masses and it is done beautifully.
The thing that most of us do not realize, and that Charlie Brown also doesn’t realize in the movie is that in spite of your own insecurities, you are deserving. No one should ever tell you otherwise most of all you should never tell yourself that. In fact, Charlie Brown throughout the entire film battles with the question “why would she like me? Why would anyone like me?” he believes that he does not have the qualities worthy of the Little Red-Haired Girl’s love. However, he also shows said qualities unknowingly throughout the entire movie.
There are a few heartwarming scenes in particular where I think he shows these qualities most of all and they are the core scenes found within the movie. The first one is when he attempts to with the Little Red-Haired Girl’s heart by showing her that he is talented…what better place to do that than in the local talent show, right? So he prepares an awesome magic show to win her heart but, before he is set to go on stage, he witnesses his sister nearly get laughed at and booed off stage. He is given a choice… either have her booted off stage so he can perform his act, and potentially win his loves affection, or help out his little sister and save her performance. He chooses to be the big brother and help his sister turn her act around– even when said act leads to his own embarrassment. Now, having a big brother like I do, this scene was awe-worthy because I remember a time when I was much much young and my brother sacrificing his time to hang out with me or do things with me when he didn’t have to– when he might have been much happier going out with his friends. So this scene struck a particular chord with me that I just loved seeing.
Another adorable scene was when he was learning to dance– so that he can win the school dance competition to once again impress his lady. Snoopy shows him some sweet moves and he spends all day and night practicing and practicing all by himself. The idea that someone would train and attempt to change just for someone they love is and of itself pretty inspiring. But it is not the change that’s heartwarming, it’s the qualities found within that desire that really puts the charm on-screen. Not many people have the drive to pursue the things they want to the degree of putting any effort into it. That is how I feel anyways, most people throughout life wants things more or less handed to them and if they don’t get them they give up. Or if they are willing to try, but see no immediate results, they give up. I am no exceptions so please don’t take this as a judgment– I just think it’s the norm. So seeing someone really work hard to pursue any kind of dream is inspiring– especially when the road ahead if filled with self-doubt.
Now the comic relief in the movie mostly comes from Snoopy and Woodstock’s adventures against the Red Baron and, let me tell you, Snoopy delivered the laughs! They weren’t overly complicated or even to slapstick-y either. Snoopy has his own paralleled love story throughout the film where he battles, literally, to get his lady back from the Red Baron. His story and his character was a great compliment to Charlie Brown’s own and led to some really solid pacing for the film as they peppered in Snoopy’s journey throughout the film so you didn’t get bored with any one particular storyline in the film.
If I had to put anything in the way of negatives for this movie– it would be that I would have liked to see more of the classic side characters. They were there more or less to fill out the crowd and the background and add some insight into what Charlie Brown is going through. But that is it… they just felt like side characters. You barely see them at all. I would have loved to see more of Pig-Pen, Linus, Franklin and more– because when you did see them they were, for the most part, really enjoyable. They could have fit them in more if they had cut out a bit of the snoopy vs the Red Baron…. but… that’s tough because I liked those scenes too. Oh well… what is that phrase about having your cake? Something about eating it? I don’t know…
Also as a bit of a side note, I know some people will hate the animation style, but I rather liked it… Plus they did pepper the movie with some of the original animation style when they could which I thought was a nice tough. And, while I did not see the movie in 3-D I got the impression that the scenes with the Red Baron would have looked super cool in 3-D!
But overall I loved this film– it had tons of hears, a relatable story and a lot of laughs. If it isn’t my favorite animated movie of the year– it is definitely up there. I actually hope that this movie does well enough to allow for more follow-up films, honestly. This movie hits a comedic element as well as a sappy-love element so that it works great as a family movie but equally great as a date movie. I highly recommend going to see this!