The Peanuts Movie
Christian Movie Review
It’s been four years since “The Muppets” staged an epic comeback on the big screen, so it’s only fair that now it’s Charlie Brown’s turn. While “The Muppets” had moments of breaking the fourth wall and making fun of themselves and their legacy (and that worked for that kind of movie) we have a purer and truer comeback in the new Peanuts movie. The gang isn’t back; they never left.
While they are visually refreshed in many ways in beautiful 3D rendering, that’s where the change ends. It’s a subtle, respectful 3D rendering. The animation retains all of the classic elements of the 2D newspaper drawings — even down to the little lines behind Woodstock when he flies around. Whether you loved the comic strip in the Sunday papers or the holiday TV specials, this is the real deal.
In many ways this movie presents itself as a love letter to both the creator Charles Schulz and to his many fans. It has been rumored that before he passed away, his wish for Charlie Brown was that he would never have any new adventures that hadn’t already been written in his comic strips. Perhaps this is why they’ve never graced the big screen with dramatic “reboots” that add new information like so many reboots do today. But somehow this new movie pulled off classic Peanut gags and lines while presenting the most rounded look at who each of the characters truly are; and it did it without boring us. The story felt fresh and warmly familiar all at once — as if 20 years of our favorite comic strips had been time-lapsed and molded into a 90 minute story.
While new kids had to be found to be the voice talent behind the Peanuts gang, I was happy to see the name Bill Melendez as the voice of Snoopy and Woodstock, which were achieved using archived soundbites. It just wouldn’t be right without him. Somehow they found kids who sound for the most part exactly as they always have. Lucy van Pelt (Hadley Belle Miller, “Sofia the First”), Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp, “Bridge of Spies”) and the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi, “Dog with a Blog”) have the timeless kid voices that help bring this sweet story to the big screen. I doubt it was an easy task for director Steve Martino to get that perfect mix of helping them get the right inflection and sound while not coaching them out of their childlike voices. I was quite impressed.
Parent Guidance Content at a Glance for this G Movie…
Violence/Gore/Scary Content: None.
Sexual Content/Nudity: None.
Entertainment Value & Film Craft
The biggest adjustment to make to seeing the Peanuts gang on the big screen is the new computer-generated rendering, but they stayed true to the comforting simplicity of Schulz’s classic hand-drawn look. In several scenes we even get to see them in comic strip black and white. It’s a visual feast and the cinematic equivalent of the most nostalgic, heartwarming comfort food you’ve ever eaten. Somehow the simple hand-drawn elements just add that perfect ingredient. It’s not as lavish as “Toy Story 3,” but no animated movie ever made looks anything like this movie. It really feels like you’re watching something new and exciting — a new style of movie that’s never been done before. It’s totally unique and a fitting tribute to The Peanuts.
Worldview & Themes of Redemption
Morals such as honesty and integrity are presented as character traits you should have even when they cause you personal loss. Friendship and family take high priority. Childhood is presented here in its simplicity. While the children often make fun of Charlie Brown, it never ventures into anything that could be construed as bullying, which is a hot-button topic nowadays. A friend or certain beagle is always around to lend a helpful hand or kind word just when he needs it.
Conclusion: Possibly the Perfect Family Movie
If there were just one movie that you would take your entire family of all ages to see (which is an expensive venture, for sure), “The Peanuts Movie” would be it. It is one of the most family friendly movies to hit the big screen — on a level similar to the latest “Winnie the Pooh” movie that came out four years ago in the same year as “The Muppets” reboot. If your child can handle sitting through one and half hours, you don’t have to worry about curse words or scary images. It’s quite refreshing: no pushing the bounds of morals or culture, no edginess. Just the smooth little head of our favorite underdog, Charlie Brown. Welcome back, kid.
My rating for “The Peanuts Movie”: [usr 9] (See my notes at the bottom of this article about the rating scale.)
[Note: if you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis, please check out our editor Kevin Ott’s new blog Stabs of Joy or his podcast Aslan’s Paw. Both seek to crack open the surprising treasures of Christian belief — the things that Western society has forgotten, ignored, or never encountered — with the help of logic, literature, film, music, and one very unsafe Lion.]
Note about my rating system for the movie’s film craft and entertainment value:
1 star = one of the worst movies ever made (the stuff of bad movie legends), and it usually (not always) has below 10% on Rotten Tomatoes
2-3 stars = a mostly bad movie that has a handful of nice moments; it usually falls between 10-30% on Rotten Tomatoes
4-6 stars = a decent movie with some flaws, overall. Four stars mean its flaws outweigh the good. Five stars mean equal good, equal bad. Six stars mean it’s a fairly good movie, with some great moments even, that outweigh a few flaws. A 4-6 star rating usually means it falls between 30-59% on Rotten Tomatoes (but not always).
7-9 stars = a rare rating reserved only for the best movies of that year; and a film must have a Fresh Tomato rating (60% or higher) on Rotten Tomatoes to be given 7 stars or higher, with a few exceptions (if I strongly disagree with the critics).
10 stars = one of the best films of all time, right up there with the all-time greats (i.e. Casablanca, The African Queen, Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars Episode IV, Indiana Jones, etc.).
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